January 2007 Blog Archives
Wednesday, January 31
8:23 PM You and I call it Taiwan, but here’s its official name:
And to think that government officials are actually paid for being so laconic.
8:22 PM Corban College in Salem, OR, announces a position in biblical studies.
8:20 PM Congratulations to all our students who successfully their negotiated the treacherous waters of Theological German this J-Term and passed their finals. In your honor, I present this masterful treatise by the one-and-only Mark Twain: The Awful German Language. The editor’s cut:
Keep in mind, this is considered to be excellent German. I have always felt German to be a bit too difficult for the average American to learn to speak well. Its grammar is extremely complicated and is constantly being “tweaked.” The main obstacle, however, is our reluctance to swallow our pride and to speak the language despite the inevitable mistakes we’ll make (and which most Germans will be quite happy to correct). I’ve suggested a solution, however, here.
8:10 PM J. D. Greer has crafted a nifty essay about why we should care for the poor.
8:08 PM If you’ve ever confused “it’s” for “its,” you must read this piece published in the Telegraph.
Tuesday, January 30
6:08 AM Tuesday shout out to Mary, Stacey, Jason, Cindy, Sherree, Kennon, Steve, Jason, Danny, Dolores, and Leanne who attended last night's Burji team orientation. Danny and Jason warmly send their greetings and say "hello" in Amharic:
After a Bible study and a lengthy season of prayer, each member presented their ministry goals to the team. Here Miss Mary shares her craft ideas to the group, including these angel decorations. Her goal, as she put it, is just to "love on" people. I can't think of anyone more qualified to do that.
Becky will be making our flight reservations shortly. The Lord is bringing everything together in a wonderful way.
Monday, January 29
9:51 AM The latest addition to our home page is Part 2 of Becky's report on the building of meeting halls in Ethiopia. To read her other reports on our trip last December-January, please go here.
7:46 AM It's that time of the year when everybody is buying textbooks for the spring semester. And it's no easy task to assign texts these days. Sit down with most any textbook and you'll discover that after a brief period you can't read it. It's too textbooky, too factual, too dull, too dry. Believe me, I know: I've produced my share of them. What brings on this long-winded, heart-breaking wordiness? I'm not sure, but I have a hunch. Everyone who writes textbooks knows that they are written for teachers, not for students. As long as the textbook pleases the teacher it will make the revered and unassailable list of "required reading." Students will be forced to read it, whether it is well-written or not. I think we textbook writers are finally wising up, though. About two or three books into my writing career I decided I would try to write for the student and not for the teacher. (Whether I have succeeded is up to you, dear reader, to decide.) This means that a good textbook will have a simple style. It may even contain personal anecdotes, cartoons, jokes, puns, and -- dare I say it? -- first person pronouns. Scholars will call it unacademic, but students will love it. And, after all, we're here to serve them, aren't we?
Speaking of textbooks....
7:30 AM I heard of a church recently that spends 87 percent of its annual budget on salaries and buildings. The pastor wants to change this. He wants to reorganize their priorities. It can be done. I think of a church that has decided to forego salaries for leadership and rent for facilities as long as there are single mothers in their congregation who desire to raise their children at home. We need more churches like that. I know of congregations that spend a good lump of money on Sunday School curriculum. I've noticed that people in these churches are more likely to bring their Sunday School quarterly to church than their Bibles. Is there not an important lesson here? We shall become biblical churches in proportion as we are willing to jettison the thoughts of men and look to a sounder Source of truth. Very few churches take the sufficiency of Scripture seriously. As a result, church members do not even begin to suspect there is a biblical mind on major issues of the day -- let alone accept it and adopt it. I suppose this desire to place the Bible above other books is the most crucial mark of any church when we consider the matter of edification. That is what it was like in Berea. There is nothing so attractive in the world as a church where the Word of God is loved and read and exalted and obeyed.
7:22 AM Well, I've finally decided. And it wasn't easy, either. My thoroughbred Traveler (photo below: note his tongue!) is now on the market. I've decided to sell him to a good home. By that I mean two things: To someone who can ride him at least three times a week, and to someone who isn't skittish being around hot-blooded breeds of horses. Many people get nervous around thoroughbreds, and their nervousness communicates to the horse, who naturally gets spooky. It's not the horse's fault, mind you, though he gets all the blame. At any rate, this is a big step for me. I imagine I've ridden Traveler over 1,000 times. But now that I've got two full-time jobs (teaching and farming, as well as our work in Ethiopia) it's impossible to keep up that pace. It's just not fair to a superb athlete like Trav to keep him pastured up all the time. So if you're interested in him, or know someone who might be, send me an email and I'll shoot you the details. I'm also willing to do a trade for a less active horse. To use a car analogy, I'd like to downsize from a Ferrari to a Mercedes. But even at 54 years of age I'm not ready for a Volkswagen Beetle, if you know what I mean.
Sunday, January 28
4:49 PM After speaking at Antioch Baptist Church in Red Oak, VA, Becky and I had lunch in Chase City with an 86-year young saint who lost her husband two years ago and her only child one year ago. We took her to a hole-in-the-wall joint for some grate kuntry kookin. We met her at last year's band concert and fund raiser for Ethiopia. What a joy to share Christian fellowship with a sweet saint of God. I only hope I can be half as sweet when I get to be her age. Not likely though. I have too much curmudgeon in me, I think.
By the way, Becky and I both "preached" this morning. She gave the children's sermon, I the regular one. Hers was far better, I thought. She had the children walking all around the sanctuary mimicking her every move: "Hand on head," "walk backwards," "now skip." Her goal? Teach the children what "following" Jesus meant. Was a perfect prelude to my message on the Great Commission ("Make disciples," not "Make decisions"!). We need to do this tag-team thing more often.
7:29 AM Sunday shout out to Matt, Liz, Caleb, Isaac, and Micah Rondeau who paid us a visit yesterday and brought along a game of German Scrabble. Folks, don't try this at home unless you've got plenty of Zeit -- and Geduld. The score at the end of the game? Tied!
7:23 AM Tomorrow night begins our second round of orientation meetings for our teams that are going to Ethiopia with us this summer. Our focus is currently on Ethiopian culture, including learning a few Amharic expressions. Here's a short list of indispensable words and phrases. Thought you might like to see them.
7:14 AM Does your church have one of those attendance boards at the front of the sanctuary? If you do, please remember: the goal is never church attendance. It is active discipleship. That's the thrust of my message this morning from Matthew 28:16-20. "Major" in being church 24/7, not in "going to church" on Sunday. Move beyond mere sloganeering ("every member a minister") and actually entrust virtually all ministry to the "lay people." Everyone is gifted for some ministry, and the Body of Christ needs all of its ministers. Don't forget: my ministry is not more important than yours! By the way, only the Holy Spirit of God has the power to drive us out in self-sacrificial service. Church leaders cannot dispense this power. They need it quite as much as the rest of us!
Saturday, January 27
2:26 PM Nate and I just finished shoveling a trailer load of horse manure into Becky's vegetable garden. He's gone off to his farm to process a few more meat chickens, Becky's gone to take him some coffee, and I'm working on my message for tomorrow and on my teaching for Monday night's orientation for the team going with us to Burji next summer. In this regard, Oshe (a church leader in Burji) just sent us a few pix of the meeting hall that is being built in the town of Soyama. Here's a "before" and "after" look:
Two years ago on our first visit to Soyama:
I can also report the good news that the termite problem is no more. The hall will serve both the believers in Soyama town and those in the entire Burji District when they gather for their annual meetings. It will also allow the church in Soyama to use their current meeting hall to begin a new Christian primary school. In fact, two of our Burji team members work in education here in the states and will be able to provide guidance as the Burji people begin their first Christian day school.
And to think that two years ago there was no electricity in Soyama, no internet, and no email. Now we're receiving photos instantaneously. God is good.
9:17 AM Good news! The ISV Old Testament is well on its way to completion. And we're currently gearing up for a major review of the New Testament in California this summer. (I hope Huntington Beach is breaking big.) Meanwhile, Wayne Leman has been examining the English of the ISV. The results of his labors might surprise you. I don't know about you, but I think the grammarians' superstitions get in the way when you try to produce simple English. In fact, grammar itself can get in the way. Prescriptive grammar, that is. But the whole system of grammatical rules is slowly being replaced by our modern way of talking. If we forget about the rules for a moment and dare to use those "ungrammatical" formulas, our style will be natural and casual. Scholars call this style "colloquial" -- an intentional light touch, which is what modern English sounds like. Where the heavy-handed, old-fashioned writer tries hard to stick to the rules, the casual writer makes them stick in everyone's mind by downplaying them. In the ISV we've tried to emulate the style books for the average American ought to be written in but never are. We've tried to use basic principles of linguistics, a subject you've probably not heard much about but only because its contributions have been buried in journals and dissertations. So don't be surprised to read in the ISV that Jesus spoke like this: "Who are you looking for?" (John 18:4) -- which, of course, breaks all the rules (it "should" be "For whom are you looking?").
On another note, the principle of transculturalization is one of Christianity's towering differences with Islam, which believes that the Quran cannot really be translated at all. Christians have always believed that their Scriptures can be translated into any tongues on earth, and that the truths of Christianity can be understood through any culture. This is an impetus behind a proposal at our seminary for a new masters degree in translation and linguistics. If this 60-hour degree is approved by the trustees this spring, it is set to begin this fall. I couldn't be more excited. I have always wanted to train field translators and consultants.
Friday, January 26
9:23 AM Travel advisory! In April, Becky and I will be speaking about Ethiopia to a group of believers in Ohio. If you live in Northern Virginia, West Virginia, Eastern Kentucky, or Southern Ohio and would like us to speak to your group, please let us know as soon as possible. Our trip dates are not set yet, but it will be either April 19-23 (Friday to Monday) or April 26-30 (again, Friday to Monday). We'd like to maximize our travel time for the kingdom's sake. The only day that will not be available is Sunday.
8:43 AM We finished the roof repairs yesterday. And you should have seen the house. The back part was built in 1845, the front in 1855. It must have been one of the finest plantation homes in all of North Carolina in its hay day. 2-storied with hipped roof. A real gem. Nate's already been hired to paint the roof of the house and several ante-bellum outbuildings. We'll get to that job as soon as the weather warms up. Yesterday it was bitter cold. Even with two jackets, a scarf, and a hat I never did get warm. As a concession the boss man took me to a great seafood place for supper. Slaw, hush puppies, trout, fries -- all for only 5 bucks. Today it's over to South Boston to repair a barn roof. Already it promises to be much warmer than yesterday.
8:35 AM Have you ever visited Alan Knox's blog? If not, what are you waiting for? Alan is concerned to identity normative behaviors that were characteristic of life in the primitive church. He emphasizes how the church met together "to stir one another up to love and good works" by "encouraging one another" (this, of course, is what Heb. 10:24-25 clearly teaches is a major purpose of the gathered assembly). I don't pretend to speak for Alan (who is an eloquent writer), but it seems to me that he is convinced that the way to build a great church is to follow the master plan that was so effective in the early church. Permit me this word of perspective. Today the needs of the unchurched determine the programs of a good many of our churches. Services are "blended," or "seeker friendly," or whatever. The most faithful (and effective) option, in the view of some of us, is to recover the vision and imagination of our founding fathers (and mothers). I'm a biblicist who believes that the 58 one-anothers of the New Testament are the vertebrae of the Body of Christ. I also know that the Devil probably also believes that too, and that faith must go deeper than belief. Moreover, as one who is committed to Great Commission Christianity, it's my observation that Christians who are involved in every-member ministry are much more likely to engage in the ministry of evangelism both locally and globally. Brother Alan seeks to remind us that Christianity is more than supporting the church as an institution, and that biblical Christianity is no unproven theoretical pipedream.
Or is it? Check out his site, read the Scriptures, and then decide for yourself.
Thursday, January 25
6:53 AM Nathan's landed yet another big job, so we're off to Enfield, NC, to repair a roof on a hunting lodge. We hope to see several ante-bellum homes on the trip, which takes us through historic Warren and Nash counties. Maybe we'll also find a North Carolina delicacy along the way: hot dogs with onions, chili, and slaw ("all the way").
6:50 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Emails from Alaba.
6:42 AM Brief farm update: Our main project these wintry days is fencing in the entire farm, which begins by cutting away the brush and small trees along the fence line. Nate does the chain saw work, I drag the cuttings away. Later we'll put up woven wire, along with one strand of barbed wire at the top. As you can see, there are advantages to doing this work in the winter. In summertime the woods are impenetrable.
This little sweetie was born on Tuesday. Our babies are starting to come fast and furious.
We're hauling loads of horse manure to the farm from North Carolina. Hey, it's free!
Tom, Dick, and Mary are doing just fine, thank you. They can't wait to greet you.
I do thank the Lord for the good weather. Mamas and babies are enjoying it.
Wednesday, January 24
8:40 PM Anybody feeling a little weighed down today? Thank you, I see that hand. Here’s a helpful reminder from Ray Stedman:
8:30 PM My friend Bill Bennett has a wonderful list of print and audio resources for every Christian man and woman. You can access them here. Thank you, Brother Bill, for your ministry of mentoring. I have personally been a beneficiary of it through the years. I see in you and Doris a willingness to put the welfare of the Body before all personal advantage, success, or reputation, and you are content to stand among the saints as those who serve. That is very rare in today’s world of over-professionalized ministry. In multos annos!
8:20 PM Tough times are coming for the American church, as The World According to Bruce reminds us. I am convinced that we are rearing vast edifices of wood, hay, and stubble that will go up in smoke at the fire test of time. Do a little church work, attend if the weather is acceptable, give a few dollars to a good cause, make a gesture of piety now and then – we don’t mind a little religion because it helps our businesses and enhances our standing in society. I am deathly afraid for the church in Ethiopia, that she will become like the American church – all dressed up and made to look like durable building materials and not the cheap firewood she all too often is. As my builder son often reminds me: when it comes to construction, we get what we pay for.
8:17 PM Kudos to my Ph.D. student Alan Knox for publishing his review of An Emergent Theology for the Emergent Church in the latest issue of JETS (49, 2006: 883-886). Excellent!
8:15 PM Many thanks to Mark Waterman of Los Angeles for sending me a complimentary copy of his book The Empty Tomb Tradition in Mark (published by Agathos Press). It is based on his dissertation written at Fuller under Colin Brown.
8:13 PM I had an Ethiopian student in my office yesterday. In our conversation we discussed eating goat meat. That’s part of the regular diet for most of the world but it’s practically unknown here in America, except among Africans. I love goat meat. When cooked properly (as Becky always does), it’s delicious. You might try it sometime.
8:12 PM Is cremation biblical? Is it preferable to burial? Here’s an essay that will get you thinking about this issue if you haven’t done so already.
8:10 PM Are we living or doing our salvation?
8:02 PM Have you noticed how easy it is to love people who agree with us in matters of biblical interpretation or ecclesiological polity? We can also get along quite well with people who leave us alone. But do we really have a genuine love for all the saints, as we are commanded in the New Testament? We may talk about how much we love other Christians, but do we demonstrate it in our blogs? Judging by the personal attacks that are being aired in the blogosphere on a daily basis I think it is clear that our actions belie our words whenever we are quick to be indifferent to the privacy needs of others and critical of their motives. I see I am not the only one who thinks this is an important issue (see Nathan Finn’s decision about redirecting his blogging). Scientific tests have shown that people are more interested in reading about other people than about anything else. Why is this so? Probably because man knows nothing so well as man. This is why people come up in our blog entries in discussions of everything under the sun. These entries are often called “human interest stories,” and they make writing (and reading) blogs interesting indeed. And therein lies the challenge of blogging.
By the way, here’s a good example of a recent blog entry that in my view addresses an important missiological issue in a positive and salutary way (without focusing on names or personalities).
7:55 PM Congratulations to my J-term Greek class that met for the last time today. Out of 33 students, 16 had a semester average of 100 or better and thus received an A+ for the course. I chalk this up to the logical nature of the Greek language. When taught morphologically, I think that even a rock could learn it. So kudos to all of you. See you next semester (which starts next week!).
7:52 PM Oops! I just realized I forgot to mention that our first baby goat of the year was born on Monday. The problem is, none of the mothers has claimed him, so it’s back to bottle feeding for a few weeks. "Mama" gave birth right around breakfast time and rushed off to get her hay before even licking off her newborn. Odd, but true.
Becky named him -- what else? -- "Breakfast."
7:50 PM “If you believe what you like in the Gospel, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the Gospel you believe, but yourself.” – St. Augustine
Sunday, January 21
2:44 PM Here are some quick notes on a sleepy Sunday afternoon. I'll start with this picture (taken a few days ago) of Becky's Cornish-White Rock supper, accompanied by farm fresh beans and home-canned peaches. I have never tasted better chicken in my life. What a treat.
This morning our little church group sang at the local nursing home. Here's Nathan bringing a brief devotional from the Scriptures to this dear company of people.
Everyone seems to enjoy it when we lead them in the Baptist National Anthem (aka, "Victory in Jesus"), especially when it is accompanied on the guitar and wash tub. Many in the crowd naturally called the latter instrument the "gut bucket," and indeed we use it for such purposes here on the farm.
At Antioch Baptist Church this morning I met this WW II veteran who flew in a B-17 during the waning months of the European conflict. Instead of dropping bombs, he and his crew dropped food supplies to the citizens of Amsterdam under a flag of truce between the Amis and the Germans. That was in April and May of 1945. It was wonderful to hear his testimony of the Lord's direction and protection during his service years.
2:27 PM Wayne Leman is asking his readers to provide feedback about the International Standard Version. He does so at the request of the ISV Foundation's director, William Welty. As the New Testament editor of the ISV, I certainly look forward to reading any comments you may have to offer and promise to do what I can to turn them to the improvement of the version in the months ahead.
7:45 AM Becky and I are off to sing at the nursing home before I speak at Antioch Baptist Church. This afternoon it's down to Oxford for an ordination service. An icy mix is expected again today. We're planning extra travel time because of road conditions. Please do the same. Students: drive carefully coming to campus tomorrow morning. I'd rather you be late for class than take any risks on the highway.
7:41 AM One more essay on this anniversary of Anabaptism.
7:35 AM My friend and colleague Maurice Robinson has joined the bloggers over at Evangelical Textual Criticism. An excellent addition. Maurice, blogging is like voting: do it early and do it often. Best wishes in your new role.
7:30 AM Over at My Simple Life, Lady Lora has been led to read her Bible before logging on to her computer. That's a sound goal, and one I try to practice daily. I don't know about you, but I couldn't make it through a single moment of a single day without spending time in the Word and prayer.
Saturday, January 20
3:54 PM Becky just went over to Nathan's farm to process about 30 chickens. Nathan skins, while Becky freezes. Me? I'm working on a message I'll deliver tomorrow night at an ordination service. Earlier we got a lot of trim trimming done along the new fence line, until the chain saw blade petered out, that is. All it needs is a good sharpening and we'll be back in business. Nice serendipity: While Nate and I were working who shows up but Becky with a lunch basket filled with hot soup -- wild turkey with farm fresh maters and corn, with a little Ethiopian beriberi tossed in to spice things up. Hit the spot.
7:56 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Commemorating the Anabaptists.
7:51 AM This piece traces Senator Barack Obama’s spiritual journey. Incidentally, presidential candidate Obama and I have something in common: we were both born and raised in Hawaii.
7:46 AM The latest from Barna:
7:42 AM I see that Fondue is making a comeback. I first tasted the stuff in 1978 while on a missions trip that took us through central Switzerland. Can’t say I like it very much. I much prefer another Swiss dish.
7:35 AM It’s winter again in North Carolina. The air is clean and crisp, the sky cold and cloudless. I walked around campus yesterday just to enjoy the outdoor beauty, singing and doing some praying along the way. I usually intercede for my classes and students during my on-campus jaunts, but mostly I just thank the Creator for His magnificent handiwork.
7:24 AM Briefly noted…. We just had a special treat. Nathan’s new chicken broilers are turning out to be meatier and more delicious that I had imagined. I even like the white meat…. Looks like he’s almost done with his remodeling job in South Boston. I helped him paint the other day, and I may post a few pix of his work…. We’re having guests this weekend at Bradford Hall. They are a seminary couple who just needed a little R & R. Becky is really in her element when she is entertaining people…. This Sunday we’ll be back at Antioch Baptist Church where I’ll be teaching from the book of 1 Thessalonians, based on a study I prepared for Ethiopia…. I’m working up a book proposal for a publisher and also deciding how and when to revise a book I published several years ago. Contracts, I’ve noticed, have quadrupled in length since when I first started writing books back in the 1980s. Much of this has to do with electronic and Internet rights issues, which no one thought much about way back then.
Today it's back to putting up fencing. The day is perfect for it. I'd like to have the entire farm fenced in by the end of summer, all 123 acres of it. We'll see....
Thursday, January 18
6:46 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Erecting Buildings.
6:42 AM Greek students! Did you know you can read the Greek New Testament as well as the Septuagint online? Eventually you may want to read Classical Greek as well. I can attest from personal experience that the key to mastering any language is reading it, reading it, and then reading it some more.
6:38 AM My Ph.D. student Matthew McDill has just published “A Textual and Structural Analysis of Mark 16:9-12” in Filologia Neotestamentaria 17 (2004) 27-43. Heartiest congratulations!
6:35 AM "Philosophers are people who write about things they don't understand, and make it sound like it's your fault." - S. Lewis Johnson
6:31 AM I am trying to digest Delbert Burkett’s latest book, which makes some serious hay with the Markan Hypothesis. Anyone who tires to challenge the status quo is welcome in my book, though I doubt whether the entrenched theory of Markan priory is in any danger of being overthrown any time soon, as Michael Pahl notes in his review (.pdf) of the book.
6:27 AM Andy Rowell is considering writing his doctoral dissertation on Bonhoeffer and the Emerging Church. Sounds like an excellent idea to me.
6:24 AM You're never too young to learn Greek:
6:20 AM An unknown writer once penned the following limerick: "There was a young poet in Japan,/Whose poetry no one could scan./When told it was so,/He replied, 'Yes, I know,/But I try to get as many words in the last line as I can.' " I am currently chin-deep in preparing my lecture to be given at the University of Marrakech in Morocco in March. The invitation to lecture came from the language department there, and the theme of the conference has to do with translating “sacred texts.” The Quran will be discussed, as will the Bible. I am going to try and speak to the issue of translating the poetry of the New Testament into English, using the ISV New Testament as an example of what might be done in this area. The larger issue I would like to address is the question of why we as students of the New Testament are so insensitive to the rhetorical level of language when it comes to reading and interpreting our Bibles. I think Old Testament scholars are doing a much better job of it than we are, but we can all do better both to understand and translate the poetry of the Bible. Why am I so concerned about this matter? Only because my view of verbal-plenary inspiration extends not only to the words of the Bible but also to the rhetorical devices that God the Holy Spirit led the writers to employ. Shouldn’t that drive us all to be sensitive to this level of language as a meaningful level for receptors?
6:14 AM Pete Hurst asks, Who Am I? An excerpt:
Amen to that. God’s business is our business as Christians. We have no other.
6:01 AM A wise old preacher once said, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Eccl. 3:1). It seems that in this season of my life God has called me to be intentional in carrying out His loving and merciful purposes in Ethiopia. As long ago as 1906 G. Campbell Morgan said, “Any man or woman in the church who does not know what it is to share the travail that makes his kingdom come is dishonest and disloyal to Jesus Christ.” The early Christians found out that there was no joy like the joy of sharing Jesus with others. They saw evangelism as enabling people to escape from the snares of the devil and be transformed from darkness into light. Once you have been gripped by the need of people who do know the Lord Jesus Christ, you will need no other to reason to spread the Good News about Him with every person you can possibly reach.
To be quite frank, nothing in my life has brought me as much joy as being about the Gospel business. Missionary work allows me to participate in the greatest commission ever given to believers – to make disciples of the nations through Christ’s authority and presence (Matt. 28:18-20). This is the primary way the church glorifies God, and the heart of the great commission is to “make disciples.” The tense of the command implies, “Do it, and do it now!” I admit that I have not always felt this urgency. But I do now, and I look forward to discovering in the future even more deeply what it means to disciple the nations for Christ. Notice that there is no option in Jesus’ command. Either we are doing it or we or not. Either we are being obedient or we are not. There can be no disciple-making without a spirit of intentionality – a spirit of active pursuit that looks for opportunities to evangelize and edify. A great commission person is sharply focused. He or she doesn’t get bogged down in selfish agendas or the soft cultural values of modern American life. A great commission person is one who chooses to be so. We must be intentional about going into our communities and our world in order to turn people into committed followers of Christ. I have decided that my focus in life must be on making disciples. If a ministry does not aim at making disciples, why do it? I am learning to measure everything I do by whether it contributes to the disciple-making process.
If nothing else, missionary work has challenged my smugness and lethargy. I was born and raised in laid-back Hawaii. My spiritual muscles are naturally flabby and soft. But Jesus calls us to deny many of the comforts and pleasures we take for granted every day. His disciples saw how He refused the things they cherished – physical pleasure, popular approval, prestige – and accepted willingly the things they sought to escape – poverty, humiliation, sorrow, even death. In ministering to the sick, comforting the sorrowful, and preaching the Gospel to the poor, Jesus showed us that no service was too small and so sacrifice too great when it is done in His name. Being a missionary has forced me to renew my dependence on the Holy Spirit. Only the Spirit of God can enable believers to carry on the redemptive tasks of evangelism and edification in the midst of the watchful eyes of others. I teach three classes each semester, but on the mission field class is always in session. Our every word and deed is constantly scrutinized by believers and unbelievers alike. We must be willing to be transparent, and the people to whom we open our lives will see our many shortcomings. But hopefully they will also see that the heart of the whole miraculous drama we call salvation is dependent not on any man but on One who sacrificed self for the blessing of others.
Someone once said that to be “in Christ” is to be “involved.” A burden is not a burden as long as it is on the ground. Only when it is on our own shoulders is it a burden. Have you taken up the burden of world evangelization? May the Spirit be the prime mover in our hearts today. For only He can give us a desire to see the nations reached with the Gospel. Not only can He break us of the pride and lethargy that come so naturally to us, He can thrust us out into the mission fields of the world so that our lives bear much fruit for Him.
Monday, January 15
5:58 AM Wikipedia now has a stub on Alaba, one of two regions in Ethiopia where the Lord Jesus has appointed us to work.
5:51 AM A reader in Australia sent along these words:
Amen and amen. If the church is to be credible in society, barriers must come down -- including the clerical barrier (pastors on pedestals) and the respectability barrier (upper class versus lower class). Nor can we make a division between the spiritual Gospel and social concern as if loving, practical assistance to the less-fortunate is un-Christian. I am quite certain that the combination of genuine concern for people's hurts and the bold but loving presentation of the Gospel message is a great attraction in proclaiming and demonstrating the Good News of Jesus Christ. Becky and I have found it to be so both in Ethiopia and in southern Virginia, and I imagine that were I more sensitive to the Holy Spirit's leading I would see an even greater impact. I am not pleading for preaching that is bereft of genuine biblical content, for there is no real missionary love in a watered-down message. I am arguing, rather, for the combination of a loving heart and a cool head -- a single passion for Jesus that spills over into social and spiritual concern. This is what I think my correspondent from Down Under had in mind in his letter, and with his thoughts I concur wholeheartedly.
5:45 AM If my lungs are any indication, I brought a good bit of Alaba back home with me. You never really get used to the dust. It's everywhere. Reminds me of something I once heard about evangelism. The speaker was talking about traveling in Africa on a dusty road. Rolling up the car windows did little good as the dust crept through the floorboard. You just can't escape it. That's like evangelism, he said. It is when a person is so filled with Jesus that he can't escape His presence that evangelism becomes natural and inevitable. Great analogy, I thought to myself in the middle of coughing.
Sunday, January 14
8:15 AM I wish all of my Greek students good success as they take their first exam this weekend. I expect good, natural English in their translations from Greek to English, though I do allow for the Greek word order to be retained when emphasis is indicated, as in "Disciples of the Lord we are." I call this a "Yoda-ism," and it is quite acceptable for exam purposes.
I also hope many of you will earn the 110 Award. Awards will be given out on Monday.
7:58 AM The Muslims in Alaba are attracted to Christianity for a number of reasons, I suppose. People can see the power of the Gospel -- the power of a changed life, a healed marriage, a new love for others. I think they can also see that Christians are joyful and that believers in Christ can have good, old-fashioned fun. They can laugh out loud and poke fun at each other. One day, after an intensive period of teaching and preaching, some believers and I were enjoying a cup of coffee on the main drag in Alaba Town when I decided to draw a few portraits. Remember, there simply are no foreigners in Alaba, let alone crazy foreigners like yours truly.
It takes us only a few minutes to produce a profile sketch that is always signed "Jesus loves you."
At this point everyone else decided they would try to draw me, so out came the pens and paper.
The artwork was, well, less than professional. In this drawing I resembled a piece of cotton candy....
...the punishment for which was:
Not to worry, though. We reconciled and lived happily ever after. Now, what do the people of Alaba think of this crazy white man and his wife (who are named, ironically, "Black") and their Christian friends? I hope they can see the joy of the Lord Jesus and the power of God that can reconcile people to each other despite race, language, and culture. As Becky recently reported, "ministry" is largely just being natural and showing others that you care about them. Wouldn't you agree?
Saturday, January 13
4:36 PM Please help us welcome the latest additions to Rosewood Farm. Someone in Carolina was giving away ducks. The price was right and we grabbed 3 today. We've named them Tom, Dick, and Mary. We hope to get a few more tomorrow. They'll go in Nathan's pond.
8:56 AM The latest addition to our home page is called A Definition of "Ministry."
7:10 AM Why a Ron Paul bid for the presidency is both good news and bad news (though it's more good than bad).
6:23 AM Last night we finally got around to watching Tora, Tora, Tora. The story of Mitsuo Fuchida, who led the attack on Pearl Harbor, is a spectacular testimony to the grace of God. You can read about it here.
6:20 AM Here’s a fine study (.pdf) of the way textual variants are handled in modern English translations. I offer one suggestion. Editors would do well to use non-question-begging language in citing textual variants. Whenever you say, “The earliest and best manuscripts omit…,” you have automatically prejudiced the reader: “Why would I want to disagree with the earliest and best manuscripts?” For what it’s worth, in the ISV New Testament we tried to use neutral language that allows readers to decide for themselves (upon further investigation, obviously) which reading is “original” – e.g., “Other mss. read…” or “Other mss. lack….” A case in point is Matt. 5:22. Here the ISV notes, “Other mss. lack without a cause.” Compare the ESV (which uses somewhat prejudicial language): “Some manuscripts insert without cause.” Why couldn’t the translators have said, “Some manuscripts lack without cause”? If the word “insert” is used, the obvious implication is that without cause was added later.
6:17 AM The Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches has a blog list here. I have taught courses for the FGBC graduate school (Grace Theological Seminary) both in Winona Lake and in Southern California, and these are fine people with a big heart for missions. Incidentally, Grace College and Seminary is currently seeking to fill the office of provost (.pdf).
6:13 AM Don’t forget our Last Twelve Verses of Mark conference on April 13-14. I have begun writing my paper. I think you’ll be a wee bit surprised by the tack I’m taking. Unless you’ve read this book, that is.
6:10 AM Marks of a healthy church.
6:06 AM What The Teaching can teach us.
By the way, we translated the above text in Intermediate Greek Grammar last semester. Any second year student should be able to translate the Didache with relative ease. Why not give this passage a try?
6:00 AM Click here for some pictures of Islam in Ethiopia.
5:56 AM Greek students! Should the term “deponency” be set aside in Greek studies? This writer thinks so (.pdf.), and very logical indeed are his arguments. (I make many of the same observations in my beginning grammar on pp. 80-81.) I still believe this whole topic is a doctoral dissertation begging to be written. Any takers?
5:51 AM We just received an email from a journalist in Finland seeking permission to translate and publish Miracle in Alaba in a Finnish Christian Magazine. Needless to say, we were surprised and delighted by this request. When we told Nathan about it he joked, “Oh, so now we cross the Finnish line!”
5:45 AM I was glad to see a hint of humility in the president’s speech on Iraq. It should have gone a lot further. Humility is not very popular with politicians nowadays. We want peace without repentance, joy without conversion. But Jesus says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” Everyone is seeking “all these things” but not many are interested in God’s righteousness. But God’s order has never been reversed: righteousness, then restfulness. Only when we as nation exchange our own putrefying self-righteousness for the imparted righteousness of Christ will we experience His peace and blessing.
5:40 AM Learn Hebrew.
5:34 AM The New Testament is our authoritative constitution.
Read My Big Fat Greek New Testament (with apologies to the movie).
Friday, January 12
5:56 PM Now you can “hug the truth,” American English Version style.
Thursday, January 11
5:37 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Surprises from Heaven.
5:34 AM What we Americans take for granted!
5:28 AM How shall we then lead?
5:23 AM Alan Knox appeals for believer participation in the meeting of the church. He is, of course, right. The meeting of the church is to be more than a spectator event. It is to be participatory, and the reason it is to be participatory is because God says so. The Bible puts it like this: “As everyone has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Pet. 4:10). Why, then, do we tolerate Christians who opt out of all service in the church and the world? Why does the church shelter them under the excuse that they have nothing to offer? Such thinking is nothing less than blasphemous because it directly contradicts the Word of God. It is obvious that the church is making it far too easy for Christians to abdicate their personal responsibility to serve God. We have forgotten the significance of stewardship – that great Anglo-Saxon word that is virtually meaningless today. And it is meaningless today because stewardship means responsibility, it involves responsibility, it demands responsibility. One day God will say to each of us who professes to know Christ, “Turn in the account of your stewardship!” (Luke 16:2). Not, “Turn in someone else’s account.” Not, “Turn in the account of your pastor or your youth minister or your Sunday School director.” The time has come to ask the lazy, irresponsible Christian some hard questions. Why have you buried your talents in the earth? Why have you hidden your gifts under a bushel? Why do you live a useless life when you might be a blessing to many? Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone wants to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Mark 8:34). “If you want to be My disciples,” Jesus was saying, “you must live like people on their way to the gallows.” Not crowns but towels are the insignia of God’s kingdom, and He best honors those who stoop and serve. To be a good steward of one’s gifts in God’s eyes, to serve others in love and humility, is infinitely more important than to be a great success in the eyes of the world – or even the church.
5:18 AM You don’t have to be a fan of the Sound of Music to enjoy this beautiful ode.
5:15 AM Two of my Greek students have just published text-critical studies in our seminary journal, Faith and Mission (23:3, 2006):
Congratulations to you both. Well done indeed.
5:12 AM While in Africa my greatest concern was whether Nathan would have to face a snow or ice storm by himself on the farm. So I was grateful to hear that the weather in southern Virginia was, to say the least, mild while we were away. It turned cold the very day we returned but it’s about to warm up again for the weekend. I see we weren’t the only ones to be blessed with warmer-than-usual temps in 2006.
5:10 AM “In Ulm, um Ulm und um Ulm herum,” and other German tongue-twisters.
5:08 AM I once wrote a little piece called The Death of English. I thought of that essay while introducing Greek grammar to my students this week. I reminded them that most of them would be learning English grammar for the first time. Yes, they had courses in English while in high school and college, but did they really learn how the language works? I believe learning a foreign language is probably the single best way to master your own language. At least I hope this becomes evident in the weeks to come.
5:03 AM Your Ethiopian missionaries are on the move again this weekend. If you’re in the area, join us for our first post-trip report at Antioch Baptist Church north of Clarksville, VA. The service begins at 11:00 am.
Tuesday, January 9
5:50 AM Next time your hard drive crashes, go here.
5:45 AM Why study New Testament Greek?
5:42 AM I can remember the exact moment I fell in love with languages. It was the first day of 5th grade at Kainalu Elementary School in Kailua, Hawaii. The teacher came into the classroom and asked us, "Como esta Usted?" "Muy bien, gracias," was the reply she taught us. I absorbed the language like a sponge and wished she had given us more than a handful of Spanish phrases that year. But it was a start at least. In Alaba I met with the children regularly for language lessons. I taught them a song I made up that included the words "How are you" and "I am fine" in several languages, including German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Modern Greek, and even Hawaiian. Every night they would look forward to their lessons with "Papa B." In Amharic I added the words "Jesus is Lord," "God is good," and "Jesus be praised." On our final evening together they sang their song for their enthusiastic parents. One of them, Tekaleyn (center right in the photo below), even learned the Greek Alphabet Song in one easy lesson. Before I left Alaba he was writing messages to me in Greek, such as "I love you very much." It's amazing how quickly and easily children can learn languages, isn't it?
5:34 AM Congratulations to Heavenly Heartburn on his first blogging anniversary.
5:31 AM Joy in the midst of persecution.
5:27 AM Greek students! Here’s an interesting report (.pdf) showing that English is still the most widely-spoken second language in the EU. It reminded me of flying into Da Vinci Airport in Rome one day on an Alitalia airline in which the Italian pilot was required by international law to speak, not Italian, but English with the tower. In a similar way, Greek was the lingua franca in the first century A.D., the medium through which the apostles could communicate their message across the length and breadth of the Mediterranean world. It is not because Greek is inherently superior to the other languages of the world that God chose it for the inscripturation of the New Testament. It was simply the most widely known language of the day. It would be well, I think, to study it as we would any other language, according to the principles of “linguistics” (a fancy term for the study of how languages work). In our class we will take a mildly linguistic approach to the study of New Testament Greek, which means less rote memorization of paradigms and (hopefully) a greater understanding of what we are learning. So stick with it – the rewards are literally out of this world. And remember: if you need help, I am only an email or phone call away.
5:21 AM I love horses. As everyone knows, I own and ride a former race horse (disclaimer: I bought him after his career had ended). He is worth every penny I spent on him, and he has kept me in great shape. But I also happen to love and admire the concept of freedom and limited government. Thus it is truly pitiful that the great state of Indiana has decided to subsidize horse racing to the tune of $27 million. Right. I suppose we should also ask the Federal Government to subsidize degenerate art. Oops, it already does!
5:16 AM Man, did I miss these guys.
Monday, January 8
6:39 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Miracle in Alaba. It's the first of several post-trip reports. Many thanks again for your faithful prayers while we were gone.
6:34 AM Here's an amazing thing. Baker Books has informed me that a publisher in Taiwan is producing a Chinese-language edition of New Testament Textual Criticism. There must be a seminary there that I don't know about. By the way, it's refreshing that a foreign publisher actually contacted my American publisher before releasing one of my books. Unfortunately this happens all too rarely.
6:23 AM Today's Back-to-School Day for a certain prof. And a mighty happy prof he is. There's nothing quite like the classroom, especially if Greek is being taught. A story is told about Oliver Wendell Holmes, one of America's most distinguished Supreme Court Justices. Holmes, at age 90, was in the hospital when President Theodore Roosevelt came to visit him. As the president entered the hospital room he noted that Holmes was reading a Greek grammar. Roosevelt asked, “Why are you reading about Greek grammar, Mr. Holmes?” Holmes replied, “To improve my mind, Mr. President.” Here's a man at 90 still trying to learn something new. And so I wish all of my beginning Greek students, young or old, great success in their studies, despite the inevitable stresses and strains of learning a new language. Perhaps this "encouragement" will help:
(While you're at it, don't forget to check out these vocabulary cards.)
Sunday, January 7
3:18 PM Greetings! Just back from the Mexican restaurant and visiting the nursing home. We arrived home this morning at 1:00 after 38 hours of travel in 5 airports. It was a fantastic trip in every way. Thank you, thank you, thank you for praying for us. Your prayers were answered in miraculous ways. I can't wait to tell you what the Lord Jesus is doing in Alaba. First I've got to get caught up on your emails. I just wanted you to know that Becky and I are in great health, excellent spirits, and super-excited about writing our reports. Hold on to your hats! Thanks also to the Rondeaus for the supply of Doritos and salsa and the Igarishi family for the delectable goodies. Thanks especially to Nathan for taking care of the farm and the animals during our absence. I'm very sad to report that we lost Lily, our Nubian goat, to CAE while we were gone. The saddest part is that she was fully pregnant. Miss Lily would have made a wonderful mommy. I will miss her.
Onward and upward!