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July 2010 Blog Archives

Saturday, July 31

6:22 PM Tonight's supper was prepared by Matt and Liz. I thought all of it was excellent, but I especially enjoyed the Sauerbraten and homemade bread. Scrumptious.

6:12 PM Praying much for the people in the Middle East whom I'll be serving starting next Wednesday. Reminded of the words of Corrie ten Boom:

If we are true intercessors, we must be ready to take part in God's work on behalf of the people for whom we pray.

What a simple formula: Pray AND go! Makes good sense to me.

5:05 PM No, Alan, I'm not trying to top your Ethiopia picture of the day, but I thought folks might like to see you and Danny inscribing commentaries on the Pastoral Epistles for Danny's class in the Alaba prison.

"Given in the name of the Lord Jesus through your brothers and sisters in America who love you." 10 copies were distributed. Speaking personally, it was a blessing watching Danny teach the inmates from 1 Timothy. I'd say more, but I'm sure the good professor himself will have a complete report on his own website.

4:44 PM I'm enjoying the boys immensely. Each is a joy to have around. (Their mom and dad are okay too LOL!) My, how they grew in just 4 weeks. We're settling into a routine of sorts, including long walks on the farm and daily chores. Table manners are going great guns as well. Life doesn't get much better than this, folks.

2:03 PM Words of wisdom from Karl Barth:

As ministers, we ought to speak of God. We are human, however, so we cannot speak of God. We ought therefore to recognize both our obligation and our inability, and by that very recognition give God the glory.

11:56 AM Time to be brutally honest with everyone. I hate teaching. Yes I, a professor of New Testament and Greek, hate teaching. It forces me into intolerable corners. I must decide what I really believe about things. I must do the hard work of research, cogitation, and synthesis before opening my mouth. I have to use my limited linguistic tools to mine the depths of the text. To be honest, it would be so much easier just to send my students to the commentaries or the online helps. After all, what hubris to think that I have anything worthwhile to teach them. Plus, try publishing your beliefs. Talk about sticking your neck out. Not fun. Maybe I should ditch teaching altogether and become a beach bum again like I was in the 1960s. No teaching means no arguments, no discussion, no controversy. I've been teaching for 33 years now. On August 24 it will start all over again. I tell you, I'm not up to the task. It takes the patience of Job, the wisdom of Solomon, and the courage of Paul. I don't like what teaching does to me. It's like getting a Charlie Horse between the ears. It's the most demanding, challenging thing I'm called upon to do.

Yes, to be totally truthful, I hate teaching. But at the same time, I love it. There's nothing more rewarding than watching the lights come on in the eyes of my Greek students when they "get it." Even better, I dig it when my students flesh out the Savior's teaching in towel and basin ministries of their own. Awesome.

It takes no talent scout to locate a true follower of Jesus. Just look for a life-long learner who is never satisfied with his or her own spiritual or intellectual status quo.

8:16 AM Arthur Sido, you da man:

Like it or not, the simple/house church “movement” is not going away and is likely to be a far more common expression in the future than it is today. Clucking about anti-intellectualism and anti-authoritarianism is not going to stop the tide. It would be nice if the intellectual heavyweights of the church would engage this growing movement instead of scrambling to hang on to the status quo.

Read Church Planting, Missions and House Churches. Below: Danny speaking at a house church in Alaba, Ethiopia. Note how carefully the people are following his message in their Bibles.

7:48 AM Mark your calendars now for the 9Marks conference at SEBTS September 10-11. I'll be speaking at one of the breakout sessions on the topic: "World Missions As the Purpose of a Biblical/Theological Education." I will argue that even Romans, the "Cathedral of Christianity," has a missional purpose!

7:42 AM Excited to be going to Cresset tomorrow morning to hear post-trip reports from Nicole, Kaleigh, Jon, and Matthea. I do hope Matthea wears her world-famous pink paper chapeau!

7:34 AM Missiologist and pastor Eric Carpenter has hit it out of the ball park this morning with his Thoughts on Mission. I've highlighted in red my main takeaways:

  • Unity in Christ bridges all gaps - There we were, a bunch of Southerners in the middle of a northern city. We were surrounded by people who don't drink sweet tea or eat grits. However, we had sweet communion with our brothers and sisters in Christ. One night, we enjoyed a terrific meal and time of fellowship at a Dominican couple's home. Despite the racial and cultural differences, we were one in Christ. It makes me long for heaven.

  • Ethnic diversity is beautiful - I don't say this because it is politically correct. I say it because it is true. At one point during VBS, I gazed across our VBS table and saw white kids, black kids, Latino kids, an Indian child, and a Bhutanese child. Wow!

  • Churches need to help churches - We have a tendency in our churches to focus on our own needs. "Membership" often leads to an us/them mentality. This trip confirmed to me the importance of churches helping one another. We are not in competition, but cooperation in the global mission of Christ.

  • Unstructured Christian fellowship is sweet - This trip gave us plenty of opportunities to spend time with other Christians outside of the typical church setting. We were able to have many discussions within our group and with our new friends. Growing relationships based on Christ is invigorating.

  • Trips help you get to know one another - Whether you want to or not, mission trips make you get to know one another much better. This is undoubtedly a good thing. Too often the church environment is sterile, with everyone putting on their best behavior. On this length of trip, you get to see people's strengths and weaknesses. A church family needs to know one another as we really are.

  • Soil is different in different places - The change in scenery was a good reminder to me that soil is different in different places. Rochester is a tough place. The hearts of the folks there do not seem to be as open to the gospel as are folks in the South. The work may take longer there. This is why we need to help.

By the way, I call Eric a "missiologist" not because he has a degree in missions (though he might) nor because he has served fulltime on the foreign mission field (though he has) but because he is committed to living a Great Commission lifestyle. What an example for the rest of us!

7:20 AM Beautiful morning on the front porch, Bible in one hand, coffee in the other, and Micah on my lap. A thirsty soul and a satisfying God! In fact, the whole Christian life is one big drink of Water. My verse this morning was 2 Cor. 4:1: "God in His great mercy has given us the privilege of serving others and, as a result, we do not become discouraged." Serving God is not a natural thing; it's supernatural. God has provided both the mercy and the ministry. Along with the privilege goes the responsibility. Have you been given much? Then much is required. One cannot receive mercy and remain the same. Multitudes of Christians the world over never minister because they are blind to His mercy. They fail to realize that there is the duty of doing. The one who receives mercy and who yet refuses to serve has been betrayed into deception. Again: You cannot truly be touched by God's mercy and not serve Him.

Below: A couple of my mercy-touched, mercy-dispensing fellow-ministers. Each is a local church elder -- Jon at Cresset Baptist Church, Tilahun at the Alaba Town Church, Kevin at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, Jason at Bethel Hill Baptist Church. What an encouragement each one is to me. Love you guys!

Friday, July 30

7:39 PM Ben Witherington answers the question: How Historical Are the Gospel Accounts?

7:25 PM Just checked the weather in _______, where I'll be next week. The high today was 118. And it will only be getting hotter. Am I nuts?

7:22 PM Nate's been bush hogging today, including our front yard. I'm jealous. I love being on a tractor. Sometimes I think I'm really a farmer posing as a Greek professor.

6:13 PM We celebrate athletes who train for years in order to prepare themselves for ephemeral games, but no less pain, sacrifice, and suffering is expected in the kingdom of our Lord. I am ready to make such sacrifices to be a good foot soldier of Jesus.

6:04 PM Back home after a grueling day on campus writing syllabi. Students, check out Moodle to see the results of my much laborious periphrasis. Now I've got to work with Prof. Cole to complete the syllabus for the LXX class. What will two great minds think up???

6:56 AM For your Friday viewing pleasure: Here we are entering the village of Benaye (Burji, Ethiopia) on motorbikes. How cool is that?


6:43 AM Food for thought:

Well, I've been searching for the New Testament church and I found her. I think. Maybe. Perhaps. However, you will need a time machine to find her. Or a Bible.

Read The New Testament Church.

6:38 AM Co-laborer Danny Achten has begun reporting about our work in Muslim Alaba. Go here to read his first report. Here's a mug shot of Danny and his translator Nitsanet at the Zobechame church.

This was Danny's first mission trip and, indeed, his first time traveling outside the U.S. He was a fantastic partner in the work.

Thursday, July 29

9:02 PM Finally, somebody gets the translation of Heb. 6:1 right, and that person is none other than Robert Gundry

7:53 PM Farm update:

1) While I was away, Nathan mentored two home-schooled young men on farming, building, etc., for two weeks. He had them construct this log shed. Nice job. And great teacher.

2) Becky's garden is doing well. She and Liz are now processing the harvest. By the way, Matt and Liz are now living with us, as Matt is between jobs. I am being royally spoiled by having all 4 of the boys with me.

3) Matt took this gorgeous photo while taking the boys for a walk this evening. I think I'll leave the photography to him from now on.

Time to give the boys one of my patented Henny-Jenny-Penny stories.... 

7:40 PM Students: I'll be in my Wake Forest office tomorrow working on my fall syllabi. Stop by if you need to see me. I will be there (Lord willing) all day.

4:33 PM Read Andy Bowden's superb review of Time to Take America Back. No, it's not, says he. But there's much much more, which means you must read the entire review.

4:22 PM 709. That's the number of photos I just downloaded to my hard drive. And that's AFTER deleting about 300 pix. Just warning you....

4:16 PM Just made a trash run. Filled an entire dumpster.

2:42 PM Meet The Man on a Global Mission. (He just happens to be my president.) What an awesome global Savior we serve.

11:33 AM Alan Knox chimes in about the trip. Welcome home, brother.

9:53 AM Post-trip reports are starting to come in. Here's the latest: Back from the End of the Earth by missionary Kevin Brown, a member of our Burji team.

9:06 AM Food for thought (Allan Bevere): 

I have come to believe that as long we believers identify and line up too closely with one side or the other, with either the Republican Party or the Democratic Party, Christians will unintentionally eclipse the politics of the God's Kingdom and our prophetic voice and witness as the church will be undermined if not completely muted. Hunter's suggestion that Christians should join both political parties to hold them accountable sounds good, but in the final analysis those Christian individuals who do so, while well-meaning and sincerely motivated for the good, end up being the tools of the party they have joined.

7:59 AM Well, well! Looks like you can't be baptized in the Jordan River any more. Guess your local baptistery will have to do instead. Better yet, why not go public in the local pond or public pool or beach park? How silly we evangelicals are.

7:21 AM Quote of the day (see comments section):

Who knows, maybe Hebrews was Paul’s last letter and just before writing it he took a Greek grammar class.

7:16 AM Take this foreign language test.

7:14 AM So Alvin Reid is not only cool, he's good-looking? What is this world coming to?

7:13 AM I really missed having my Greek New Testament with me while I was in Ethiopia. It's falling apart -- again. Anyone know a good book binder I can use?

7:11 AM Eric Carpenter weighs in on "Unspoken" prayer requests. 

7:02 AM Hey, check out Flight Tracker. Becky sent out an email with a link to this site, and many were following my flight over the Atlantic as it unfolded in real time. Super neat way of tracking your missionaries!

6:52 AM Please take a brief minute and read this obituary of a man of great faith: The Fall of an Iroko Tree: A Tribute in Honor of Tokunboh Adeyemo (1944-2010). I was touched when I saw this tribute posted on the bulletin board at the Evangelical Theological College in Addis Ababa. Tokunboh and I were at Biola at the same time.

I knew Tokunboh had gone on to serve in Africa but I did not realize what a colossus visionary he was. This one statement of his has deeply moved me:

Africa’s problem can be summarized in one word: ‘leadership’ – inept leadership, corrupt leadership, selfish leadership. We need leaders who do not focus on greed, but see themselves as servants of the people.

He hits the nail on the head. And his words apply not to government servants but also to church servants. On our trip Becky and I witnessed firsthand the devastating effect that inept, corrupt, and selfish leadership can have on the church. I cannot go into the details here, but the result has been almost disastrous for the Lord's work in one of the areas where we work. At the same time, I must remember that the church in Ethiopia is not my church but the Lord's. He is fully capable of purging and purifying His church anywhere in the world, even here at home. We are encouraging the leaders there to take a strong stand (in humility and great tenderness) against the leaven that is permeating the whole lump of dough. God alone knows what the outcome will be.

6:35 AM Received this while I was gone:

Here's the Amazon link. My chapter is called "Exegesis for the Text-Driven Sermon."

6:22 AM This morning I will begin answering your emails. Please be patient with your weary missionary. I am eager to respond to each one. Again, I love you guys!

6:17 AM The trip is over. We're all safely back in the routine of our lives. Unlike many missionaries of days gone by, we left no graves in Africa, though Jesus did allow us to share in the fellowship of His sufferings. We have seen literally hundreds and hundreds of specific answers to prayer. In 2004, when the Lord began to break my heart over the lostness of the world, one of the first things I did was to study the book of Acts afresh and anew. I saw that prayer works. I saw that only prayer can keep our work from becoming infective, weak, and powerless. I learned that God truly delights in the prayers of His people. Hebrews 11 reveals that there have always been people who have reached out to God through faith and prayer. Speaking personally, I know I could not have survived this trip without the strength, vision, and peace I needed to move spiritually with God to accomplish His will. And I know that, through your prayers, God was intervening in my needy life and situations in ways I will probably never know this side of Eternity.

All across the world there were quiet men and women (and many boys and girls too) working behind the scenes who could not go with us personally to Ethiopia but were able and willing to pray. They are the unsung heroes of this trip. Their names are known only to God. They will get no glory in this world, write no glossy missionary reports, but Jesus says that they have served Him as effectively as any frontline missionary. To them I want to say: THANK YOU. You will have your reward.

Wednesday, July 28

8:38 PM I'm home! The Gospel is still the power of God for salvation. I want to write and write and write tonight but I'm pooped. That's okay. I'll write an update tomorrow -- Lord willing. (I'm trying to use that expression more often.) Lots of good, God things to report. Praying tonight that I will do justice to what I have seen of the Lord's glory in Ethiopia.

I love you guys!

Monday, June 28

9:14 PM Off to the races early tomorrow morning. I'm flying space available to save money, and the flights from Dulles to Frankfurt are all overbooked. Prayers appreciated!

I mean that. We would love to have your prayer support while we're gone. Not only for the team members but also for the families we leave behind. B and I could not do this unless Nate and Jess were here to take care of the farm and the herds. They are as much of the "team" as we are. Here's the July 2010 Prayer Itinerary. Feel free to copy and distribute it as the Lord Jesus leads. If God is willing, I will be able to post an update or two here during the trip. If not, we'll publish full reports of the trip when we return.


Dave and Becky (for the entire Ethiopia 2010 team)

Sunday, June 27

9:14 PM There is no single act in the life of a Christian that is more important than prayer. I forget who said this, but I first heard it when I was a teenager in Hawaii. It is absolutely true. Nothing is more important to mission work than prayer. So tonight I want to share a couple of pix with my Ethiopian brothers and sisters to show them that we prayed for you this evening.

Earnest, heartfelt, broken prayer.

We already sense a oneness with you over the miles (6,000 of them!).

And, despite the physical distance, I do know this: Unity through prayer brings people to Jesus. We Christians can be great individualists. But Jesus tell us to labor side by side for the sake of the Gospel (Phil. 1:27-30). Loving cooperation and earnest prayer behind the scenes is a powerful combination. When brothers and sisters in Christ believe deeply in the power of God to answer prayer, and when they commit themselves to live in love with each other and with outsiders, the whole world will be amazed.

There is no single act in the life of a Christian that is more important than prayer.

4:40 PM This morning at Mount Tirzah we heard testimonies from two young people who served at a camp in Wyoming this summer. In passing they mentioned that they "just happened" to visit the famous rodeo in Cody. For me, that was like being smacked on the head. You see, one summer many years ago, while we were pulling our tent trailer and vacationing in Montana, we "just happened" to stop in Cody and see that very same rodeo. I was so impressed with the creature called "Horse" that upon returning to California I went out and bought me one -- thus beginning 15 wonderful years of riding. Just think of all the "just happened" events in your life. Here are a few more from my past:

  • I "just happened" to offer a beautiful young woman a chocolate-covered macadamia nut in the lunch line at Biola College, and she's been "nuts" about me ever since.

  • I "just happened" to contact SEBTS when we were being courted by other east coast schools to inquire whether there were any positions in New Testament available there. (There weren't, but a position was opened up just for me. One of the best things that's ever happened to us.)

  • I "just happened" to visit Ethiopia in 2004 to see where Becky grew up -- little knowing that I would be returning to Ethiopia every 6 months since then.

  • I "just happened" to run across an internet ad for our farm when it was up for sale. This has turned out to be the perfect setting for our retreat ministry.

  • I "just happened" to get bitten by a malaria-carrying mosquito in Ethiopia last June -- thus ending up hospitalized in the States.

With God, nothing "just happens." He directs our steps -- every one of them -- for our good and His glory.

7:33 AM Off to Bethel Hill Baptist then to visit with family at Mount Tirzah Baptist in Charlotte Court House. Tonight we'll join the prayer meeting at North Roxboro Baptist. Three congregations. One church.

7:12 AM Think about this. When Jesus went to the Samaritans (John 4) He had no business being there. Becky and I likewise violate turf rules by going to the Gujis. Guji territory is outside the Burji box. But just as Jesus wandered into enemy-controlled territory, so the Christian has the privilege of invading territory controlled by a rival religion. Interestingly, Jesus deliberately defiles Himself by asking for water from a vessel that an unclean woman has touched. I have to smile when I think that Jesus' ministry to the Samaritans began with a drink. That's exactly how my ministry among the Gujis began. This picture is no joke -- I choked when I "drank" this coffee. (It was full of roasted coffee beans that one was expected to eat. It is a Guji tradition.)

Yet I'm sure that Jesus would have accepted it. In the upside-down kingdom, everything is inverted. Acceptance of others for the sake of the Gospel becomes the yardstick of stature in Jesus' new kingdom. Contemporary talk of "missions" often falls short of this ideal. Some missionaries in Ethiopia I've met live in the nicest homes and drive the newest cars. They seem oblivious to the needs all around them. They forget that Jesus' kingdom is flat. In His book, everyone is greatest. I love the Gujis because Jesus loves them. He invites all of us -- the Burjis included -- to become blind to social status and tribal allegiances.

I love you, Jesus. And I love your kingdom in which everyone stands on equal ground. Please help me to overcome my craving for the highest seats. Teach me your illogical logic. For your Name's sake. Amen.

7:04 AM Surfing -- in Sri Lanka. It's part of the veneer of globalization. Yet when someone can win a surfing contest in that island state, you know the world is getting flat.

Saturday, June 26

8:50 PM Good news! Becky has got both us packed. I leave in only 3 days, Becky in 4. Team members, are you ready?????

8:45 PM Just finished slogging my way through all 724 pages of The Progressive Publication of Matthew by Ward Powers. The page proofs, that is. B & H Academic sent me a prepublication copy for review. It is an incredible tome. Never in my life have I met someone who thinks so much like I do. (Scary, huh?) Believe it or not, here is another student of the Gospels who is willing to dispense with Q and do away with Markan priority -- though his own view may surprise you (can you guess from the title of the book what his view is?). In any event, here's the blurb I wrote for the publisher:

The Progressive Publication of Matthew is a tour de force both in its scope and its depth. No student of the synoptic Gospels can afford to ignore it.

I mean it. This is an awesome book. While I don't agree (obviously) with everything it says, it is a powerful call to reevaluate the primary data, and for that reason alone I give it an enthusiastic thumbs up.

10:47 AM If you know anything about my theology, you know I am deeply committed to elevating two great truths of Scripture: 1) Jesus alone is our Great High Priest and the Head of His church; and 2) the church is a kingdom of co-equal priests who understand that discipleship is always costly. I do not hesitate to say that clericalism is a scandal because it concentrates power in the hands of the clergy and annuls the essential oneness of the Body of Christ. I prefer to speak of the church as a team in which every player has a different responsibility under the leadership of its Coach. In other words, although on our trip to Ethiopia we may have certain people designated as "team leaders" (I am one, for example), there is no hierarchical division between us. In my opinion, nothing is more important to our success than holding to this teamship principle. In any event, I'm delighted to be working alongside (and sometimes "over" or "under" as the need arises) my wonderful, godly teammates. Shortly I'll be introducing them to you, along with the work they'll be doing for the Lord as agents of God's kingdom. The bottom line is this: We are all called to be the Body of Christ, and we will be effective only to the degree that we stay connected to the Head (and that's not Becky or me!) and carry out His orders.

Can I get an "Amen" --  or better yet a commitment to work as a team player wherever you serve?  

By the way, don't expect any silly tweets from my teammates ("The weather here is adorable!"). They'll be working themselves to the bone --  and loving every minute of it. Too many so-called mission trips are simply glorified vacations where we gawk at the poor -- "missionary voyeurism" I call it. But that's for another post.

10:30 AM Okay, I'm being a little facetious here, but one of the things I love about Ethiopia is the way that old age and gray hair are honored. Older means better. Take that, you P90X-ers! (This is also true in Asia and the Middle East, but I'll save those stories for later.) According to Acts 2:17, in the last days the young men will see visions, but we old geezers get to dream dreams. (A dream is bigger and better than a mere vision, in case you were wondering LOL.) My point is that American culture has totally missed this truth. True, age and honor don't always go together, but when they do, pay attention to your elders. Find an old dog who's willing to learn a few new tricks -- especially by listening to the Scriptures rather than the same-old tired church traditions. Allow yourself to be "eldered" (not "mentored") by them. This is even true if your "elder" is not an "Elder." Get it? That's the way things are done in Ethiopia, and it's worked out pretty well for them.

Below: Becky with a few of the elders of the church in Burji. I can't wait to see them again and kiss their hands.

10:22 AM Great time in 2 Cor. 8:1-5 this morning. Note how the Macedonian churches helped their brothers and sisters in Judea. "Of their own free will they begged us and pleaded for the privilege of having a part in helping God's people." Isn't that great? Becky and I have the privilege of seeing this kind of cooperation among the local churches in Ethiopia. And the cooperation is only growing. Example: An Alaba businessman serves his brethren in Burji by providing us with his bus to transport our team from Addis to Soyama. Let me tell you, Becky and I have made this trip on public transportation, and this is much easier. Here's a picture of brother Demissie. Not only does he loan us his bus, he drives it himself.

And here's Ephraim.

Ephraim lives in Addis but has volunteered to be our guide in Addis as we go from store to store buying up supplies and also when we travel down country. In fact, he's using 2 weeks of his "vacation time" to serve King Jesus with us. Truly, we are "partners working together for God" (1 Cor. 3:9). Makes me want to echo Paul's words in 2 Cor. 9:13-15:

Because of the proof that this service of yours brings, many will give glory to God for your loyalty to the Gospel of Christ, which you profess, and for your generosity in sharing with them and everyone else. And so with deep affection they will pray for you because of the extraordinary grace God has shown you. Let us thank God for His priceless gift!



"Extraordinary grace."


7:48 AM Here's a suggestion from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

The Church is the Church only when it exists for others. To make a start, it would give away all its property to those in need. The clergy must live solely on the free-will offerings of their congregations, or possibly engage in some secular calling. The Church must share in the secular problems of ordinary human life, not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell men of every calling what it means to live for Christ, to exist for others.

Is the church in America ready for such a radical step of costly obedience? Bonhoeffer was willing to live this way. And his words cut us open, give us a diagnosis, and prescribe the remedy. Our churches can and must forsake our preoccupation with material pleasure and turn to Christ with all of our hearts.

Bonhoeffer practiced what he preached.

Do I?

Friday, June 25

7:16 PM The Bible says, "The hard-working farmer ought to have the first share of the crops" (2 Tim. 2:6), and, since I take the Bible literally, you'll be pleased to know that I am about to cook Chinese food for our supper (yes, with my secret ingredient) and it will include this beautiful zucchini from our garden -- the first fruits of our labors.

There can be no reward without responsibility -- how's that for spiritualizing something so mundane as Chinese stir fry? Still, I figure that wholehearted commitment to the work of gardening has its benefits. Should be scrumptious.

5:57 PM Just finished reading the next book in my collection of summer reading desiderata  -- Adrian Thomas's A Case for Mixed-Audience with Reference to the Warning Passages in the Book of Hebrews (Peter Lang, 2008). This is Thomas's Ph.D. dissertation written under Buist Fanning at DTS. It is a fine study, though I disagree with the author's conclusion that the two present tense participles in 6:6 are causal and not temporal. Keith Elliott has argued (convincingly in my opinion) that the impossibility of repentance is only "while they are crucifying to themselves the Son of God...." ("Is Post-Baptismal Sin Forgivable?" BT 28 [1977] 230-32). Nevertheless, I applaud the author's irenic spirit and his willingness (audacity?) to tackle difficult issues. If you do read this book, don't miss the discussion of human depravity in the concluding chapter. Outstanding stuff.

P.S. Do dissertation titles have to be so long? "A Case for Mixed-Audience in the Warning Passages of Hebrews" might have sufficed.

4:52 PM Kevin Brown is a shepherd at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in North Wilkesboro, NC. Kevin's a man after my own heart. If he's not on one tough mission trip, he's on another. For a report of his recent ministry in Mexico, read his latest blog entry called Why a Mission Trip Can Change Your Life. Kevin and his daughter Katy are veteran missionaries to Alaba with us.

This summer the Lord has directed Kevin to assist us in Burji, where he'll be teaching church elders straight from the Scriptures. Glad to have on you on board again, brother K!

4:31 PM Quotable quote (Donald Kraybill, The Upside-Down Kingdom):

Leadership is only worthy of allegiance when the led freely grant it to the leader in response to the leader's servant posture.

4:26 PM Ted Gossard reviews Allan Bevere's new book The Character of Our Discontent.

1:30 PM A fine tribute to Manute Bol.

1:21 PM Just finished yet another book from my summer reading list -- From the Mind of God to the Mind of Man: A Layman's Guide to How We Got Our Bible. It's about the transmission of the New Testament text and is written mostly for "Fundamentalists." The tone is surprisingly charitable. I enjoyed the conclusion by Keith Gephardt so much that I thought I'd to pass on to you this quote:

Life is too short and God's work is too great for Fundamentalist Christians to divide over issues on which God has not clearly spoken. God has preserved His Word. Some see His hand of providence in the dry sands of Egypt; others see it in the copying of medieval Greek Catholic monks. Both views are partly correct. The fact that humble and learned men of God are found on both sides of this issue is reason for pause in our dogmatism.

Now that's commendable!

1:15 PM Okay, so movie subtitles really bother me. The Longest Day (which I watched recently) is a case in point. When Rommel is speaking, for example, entire phrases are left untranslated or else are only briefly summarized in English.

Ouch. Makes you wish you didn't know any German. According to a book I read last night (Key Terms in Translation Strategies), movie subtitles must work within the parameters of not more than two lines of text, with each line not accommodating more than 35 characters. This means that materials are often deleted, condensed, or adapted. Still, subtitles are infinitely preferable to dubbing. Besides, if you know French and German, you can always ignore the subtitles and appreciate the aesthetics of the original work. I'm bringing all of this up because one of my objectives in our Ph.D. linguistics seminar this fall is to discuss the question of translatability when it comes to the Greek of the New Testament. In other words, what makes a translation "good" or "bad"? Translation invariably involves a loss of meaning associated with the Source Text. The relevance of this for our doctoral students lies in the ability to perceive the intended meaning of the text and in the ability to recognize that intended meaning is always subject to subtle variations in translation. I'm anticipating some good discussions. I may even show a German clip from The Longest Day, seeing that all of our Ph.D. students are expected to be proficient in that language. (You've been forewarned!)

12:53 PM Just back from running errands for Ethiopia with Becky. I'm so proud of B. What a trooper. Despite her anemia. Despite her tiredness. She just keeps on keeping on and keeping on. How many paid missionaries do you know that work 12 hour days for the kingdom? Honey, you're a blessing.

8:18 AM Quote of the day (Alan Redpath):

We will only advance in our evangelistic work as fast and as far as we advance on our knees. Prayer opens the channel between a soul and God; prayerlessness closes it. Prayer releases the grip of Satan’s power; prayerlessness increases it. That is why prayer is so exhausting and so vital. If we believed it, the prayer meeting would be as full as the church.

8:10 AM Weather update: Ethiopia is currently experiencing unusually severe rains, making many of the roads we are planning on using potentially impassible. Prayers for dry weather during our trip are appreciated!

7:57 AM Hi folks. Forgive me, but I'm in a reflective mood this morning. I've been teaching now for 34 years and am absolutely jazzed about my craft. I started out as a fledging Neutestamentler at Biola University, where they had me teaching Classical Greek from a textbook designed for one semester at Harvard (we did it in two). As everyone knows who has read my various non-Pulitzer Prize winning books, much of my scholarship centers on the language of the New Testament and (more particularly) how useful Greek can be to understanding and applying the message of the New Testament. That said, I have to admit to you that there is something that I do that I enjoy even more than teaching and writing. It's also the most difficult thing I do in life. It is more difficult than translating the 27 books of the New Testament from Greek into English for the International Standard Version. And it's certainly more difficult than lecturing at, say, Tyndale Seminary in Holland or the Complutensian University on the Costa del Sol (that's where my summer school lecture took place). It's certainly less pleasant than living high off the hog in the wonderful nation of South Korea (I love pulgogi, kaejigogi, and even kaegogi -- dog meat!).

It all kicks off again for me next Tuesday when I take flight for Ethiopia ("Utopia" to my father-in-law). No longer do Becky and I work in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. There are simply too many harder places in Ethiopia to work, places where few (if any) foreigners work. There is nothing that will stretch you quite like frontier missions work. I call it being overextended by design. It would have been a lot easier if the Creator had used angels to proclaim the Good News -- or even the rocks (and Ethiopia has plenty of those). But He has called people to penetrate the non-Christian world. Please don't miss the point of the Great Commission: The Spirit of the Almighty God makes His appeal through us. He desires to use insignificant nobodies like me, people who are utterly broken in and of themselves, who acknowledge that they can't succeed in anything without His empowering. What an awesome, humbling truth. Wherever I go -- Africa, Asia, the Middle East -- I realize that there are millions of sheep out there, lost and wandering without a Shepherd. I'm sent to find them -- and so are you. Each of us is called to be obedient to this commission. Faith and obedience are twin sisters; you can't have one without the other. Just look at the book of Acts. It all started with 120 John Does. They were responsible to take the Message as far as they could travel. And within 30 years, Nero could blame the burning of Rome on these "Christians," so successful were they. As I think about the oil spill in the Gulf I can't help but see in it a symbol of the awesome power of the Spirit of God gushing through the souls of His people. Never in my life have I ever done anything that required such utter abandonment and total dependence upon God.

So I have a question for you. Are you willing to join The Cause right now? Regardless of what your "job" is? (Mine happens to be teaching ancient Greek.) Are you dedicated enough to the Savior to say "Here am I; send me"? If you discovered the cure for cancer and your best friend was suffering from that disease, would you tell him or her the solution? God is up to some amazing things in this world, and He's told us where to go and what to do. We must give His Cause the highest priority in our lives. We don't truly test God's character until we attempt the impossible. For me, Ethiopia is the "impossible." But God has scouted the opposition and has equipped us for the task. He's shown us the power of vulnerability. I'll never forget how Becky and I led Mohammed the murderer to Christ. It took years of patient visiting, loving deeds, and especially prayer. In his case, it was the Amharic Bible that we gave him that got the job done. I tell you, the Bible is a Spirit-empowered weapon that is mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. If it should ever be your privilege to share Christ with a Muslim, I trust you will remember that your goal is not to "win" an argument. Gentleness in the midst of stress if a powerful magnet. When you play the music, people will want to hear the words and will ask you the reason for the hope that you have (1 Pet. 3:15). "Blessed are the meek" (Matt. 5:5) surely applies to the tone of our voice and our body language. So put on a happy face that flows from the peace of the indwelling Christ and share it! Evangelism is a lifestyle, not a method. Reaching the lost is a difficult, costly struggle. I can't overemphasize this point. The trick is to stay in touch with God's Spirit and His agenda.

To that end, will you pray for us? Becky and I will be separated for almost the entire 4 weeks. I will be doing frontline evangelism in a place I've never been before. Our 5 teams in Burji will not be able to communicate with each other or with their relatives in America. Living conditions will be hard. Several are struggling with health issues. I thank God for my team members. I'm looking forward to working with each one of them. They are raising the bar for missions by investing their time, money, and energy into something other than the American Dream. They have willingly chosen inconvenience over convenience, danger over safety, insecurity over serenity. Some are teachers, others are doctors and nurses. We've got pastors and laypeople on the team, young and old. Ultimately, though, we are simply towel wearers and basin bearers. More than anything, we feel called to give our lives away in the service of others. What a high and holy calling. What a difficult task. Who is adequate for these things? Gratefully, our adequacy is of God.

Thursday, June 24

8:50 PM Tonight's sunset on the farm:

Truly: "The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship" (Psalm 19:1).

8:25 PM The quote of the day comes from my Doktorvater in Basel, Bo Reicke  ("Chronologie der Pastoralbriefe," TLZ 101 [1976], 83):

Es bedeutet einen primitiven Anachronismus, zu behaupten, jemand hätte dreissig, fünfzig oder neunzig Jahre nach dem Tode des Paulus sich die Mühe gegeben, aus der Apostelgeschichte und den Paulusbriefen einige Namen und Daten herauszupicken, um die zeitgenossen mit gefälschten Paulusbriefen an Privatpersonen zu beglücken, ohne sich über derartige Antiquitäten hinaus urn eine überzeugende Imitation der paulinischen Ausdrucksweise und Begriffswelt zu kümmern.

8:14 PM I thought about this while preparing for Ethiopia today:

We should always look upon ourselves as God's servants, placed in God's world, to do his work; and accordingly labor faithfully for him; not with a design to grow rich and great, but to glorify God, and do all the good we possibly can.

The author was David Brainerd, who poured out his life in service to the Gospel and died, worn out, at the age of 29. He felt himself placed in God's world to do His work. I'm ready to do the same.

7:49 PM Warning: This post is for mature adults only. Here's Spurgeon on the use of the title Reverend:

I hope that we can reply that we do not care for such honors, and are content to leave them to men of the world, or to the use of those who think they can do some good thereby.

We wonder when men first sought out this invention, and from whose original mind did the original sin emanate. We suspect that he lived in the Roman Row of Vanity Fair, although the Reverend John Bunyan does not mention him. One thing is pretty certain, he did not flourish in the days of the Reverend Paul, or the Reverend Apollos, or the Reverend Cephas.

Unbelievably good stuff, eh? The same, I believe, could be said for "Doctor" and "Senior Pastor," could it not? I urge all of us to turn a deaf ear to the world's ethic and pursue the kingdom ethic of Jesus – no matter what our educational status is. Jesus' way is the way of the cross – period.

7:35 PM Full day on campus. Finished Why Four Gospels? Received a 700-page manuscript on the Gospels for review for a possible blurb. Plus, I brought home two sacks full of books for my summer reading. I love reading and writing!

Wednesday, June 23

8:58 PM Quote of the day (Joni Eareckson Tada, upon learning she has breast cancer):

I've often said that our afflictions come from the hand of our all-wise and sovereign God, who loves us and wants what is best for us. So, although cancer is something new, I am content to receive from God whatever He deems fit for me.

8:47 PM Just finished a few evening chores:

1) Helping Nate stack some freshly-cut hay.

2) Making a long-overdue trash run.

Excited to be back on campus tomorrow --  for the last time until August.  

6:24 PM Busy, busy, busy! And they call this "summer vacation"?

8:13 AM North Roxboro Baptist Church is having a special prayer meeting for our Ethiopia mission team this Sunday evening, July 27, at 6:00 pm. There will be a time of fellowship afterwards. Join us if you can. For directions call 336-599-9831. 

7:32 AM Well said (William Wilberforce):

If there is no passionate love for Christ at the center of everything, we will only jingle and jangle our way across the world, merely making a noise as we go.

6:33 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Rhino Evangelism?

6:26 AM My beginning grammar is being translated into Spanish. A sampler: 

El primer paso en estudiando al Nuevo Testamento Griego esta aprendiendo a leer y escribir el alfabeto Griego. El estudio de la orden y los sonidos de las letras Griegas ayudara a romper la extrañeza entre usted y el Griego, permitirle encontrar una palabra en un diccionario Griego-Español, y revelar las relaciones entre palabras Griegas y Españolas.

Thank you Jesus. 

Tuesday, June 22

7:25 PM Dear dry, dusty, malaria-ridden Alaba. Can't wait to see you again.

7:14 PM I'll be spending all of Thursday in my Wake Forest office. Students, if you need to see me about anything, feel free to stop by. My door is always open.

7:04 PM Back from my evening walk. Anything that moves had better get away, and quick, during "dog patrol."

I tell you, I'll miss these guys when I'm in Ethiopia.

Including Mr. Duncan.

5:50 PM Quote of the day #3 (Will Willimon):

We have churches that have too much pastor for too few laity.

5:29 PM Andy Cheung interviews Ed Blum, general editor of the Holman Christian Standard Bible.

5:18 PM Food for thought (Charles Haddon Spurgeon):

Someone asked, Will the heathen who have never heard the Gospel be saved? It is more a question with me whether we – who have the Gospel and fail to give it to those who have not – can be saved.

4:56 PM We are all greatly indebted to Maël for providing us with biblical insights into the concept and practice of New Testament ordination. I believe we can rightly speak of ordination only if we take into account the total priesthood of all believers. When we understand that "gift" extends to every task within the church's corporate life, then the open acknowledgement of the place of each of its members makes sense. I therefore oppose using the term "ordination" exclusively for the sacralized leadership of a church, for each member of every congregation should have his or her function within the life of the church made plain.

The apostle Peter writes, "As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another." In this sense, whenever we speak of a "minister" we are also speaking about a servant. Thus no ministerial "office" represents status in a political sense since the ministry of Christ is always measured by its Christ-likeness. All ministers are within the Body, and none is above it, save its exalted Head, the church's only Senior Pastor. Unity and harmony in the church require that all members "should work together as a whole with all members in sympathetic relationship with each other" (1 Cor. 12:25).

How tragic, then, that by the end of the second century the New Testament church should have become a community centered in the bishop. And how tragic today that some leaders in our churches should dare to assume a title and status that implies sacerdotal power. Yes, let's ordain our "ministers" -- but let's remember that we are all fulltime ministers in a voluntary and free society, a Christian brotherhood in which the ideals of the kingdom would be realized.

Thank you, again, Maël, for your stimulating discussion of an extremely important matter.

4:16 PM Entrepreneur of the day: Alan Knox. Be sure to check out his new website: Alan Knox Web Development. Note: One of the testimonials is written by the Bethel Hill Baptist Church webmaster (who also happens to be my wife!).

4:12 PM Just back from Wal-Mart. Praise the Lord -- both Becky and I found good walking shoes for Ethiopia!

1:24 PM Quote of the day #2 (Becky Black):

As we look at the different churches in the books of the New Testament, there is no ‘competition’ except in matters of godliness. And there was no manmade division according to national histories, languages, cultures….they were united in the Gospel, they were helping each other, they were working for one common goal regardless of their human differences.

Read "Home Missions" and "Foreign Missions."

12:25 PM It boggles my mind to think that in exactly one week I will be checking into the RDU airport for my flight to Washington Dulles and thence to Addis Ababa via Frankfurt. I will be in Ethiopia for exactly 4 weeks as Becky and I direct the efforts of our team of 26. It is almost impossible to grasp the needs and opportunities that exist in that great nation. Doors of service are wide open. Serving there is anything but a drudge or a duty but an absolute delight, even though the work is difficult. I am reminded of what G. Campbell Morgan once told his audience at a Keswick Convention: "Any man or woman who does not know what it is to share the travail that makes his kingdom come is dishonest and disloyal to Jesus Christ." That is so true. I am especially excited to be doing some frontline evangelism again. So please pray for and with me as I begin my final preparations for this trip. Zeal alone will not get the work done.

I will post a detailed prayer itinerary of our trip very shortly. Please feel free to copy and distribute it far and wide, asking that our ministry may be "a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice and pleasing to God." When difficulties arise and problems mount (as they surely will), we need to know that the people back home are "holding the ropes." By the way, when I return home I will almost immediately turn around and spend 10 days in the Middle East, and then in September I will make a 10-day trip to Asia. I will need supernatural strength and grace for these trips, but I know that just as the Great Shepherd has died to give me eternal life, just as surely He is with me day by day to provide for my every need. I have long been convinced that there is no substitute for simple obedience in the Christian life. As God opens the door, you just walk through it -- no discussion, no questions asked. And every Christian has been given authority to preach to others the Good News of Jesus Christ. This is the mark of being a child of God. We seek the highest good of others, even those who are the enemies of Christianity.

That's what Christianity is all about. 

9:50 AM Quote of the day (John Piper):

God is pursuing with omnipotent passion a worldwide purpose of gathering joyful worshipers for Himself from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. He has an inexhaustible enthusiasm for the supremacy of His name among the nations. Therefore, let us bring our affections into line with His, and, for the sake of His name, let us renounce the quest for worldly comforts and join His global purpose.

9:35 AM I greatly appreciate bloggers who are asking questions about the best way to apply sound doctrine in practical ways. A recent example is a recent blog post by Eric Carpenter who wonders out loud if Reformed theology is perhaps a bit imbalanced (Ligonier 2010: A Review). Whenever we reduce Christianity to certain "marks" (such as the preaching of the Word and the proper observance of the sacraments) we run the very great risk of succumbing to the false notion that theological correctness is infinitely more important that practical correctness. The Anabaptists argued, correctly in my view, that genuine Christian faith can be empirically known through good works. Luther wrote: "Doctrine and life are to be distinguished, the one from the other. With us conduct is as bad as it is with the papists." Calvin urged that "we must think so highly of the Word and the Sacraments that wherever we see them we are to consider without a doubt that the Church is there, regardless of how much vice and evil there may be in the corporate life of men." The Anabaptists blazed a new trail when they insisted that doctrine without life is as unbiblical as life without doctrine.

I am led to ask whether there are any pedagogical principles to be derived as a result. In my own teaching (e.g., the exegesis of Philippians) it is not enough for my students to talk about Paul's call to unity and humility in the service of the Gospel. For can we truly believe the message of Philippians unless we are willing to flesh out its teaching in costly obedience -- even at the risk of our lives (see Epaphroditus in 2:25-30)? The tension between theology and practice made a split in the Reformed camp inevitable, for as soon as Luther downplayed good works and overemphasized the forensic aspect of salvation this imbalance had to be addressed. It is this imbalance that I specifically addressed in The Jesus Paradigm and that brother Eric feels so uncomfortable about. This is why it is impossible to quote Eph. 2:8-9 without also quoting Eph. 2:10, for Luther's sola fide is heresy if by it is meant faith unaccompanied by works. As Jesus put it, "By their fruits you will know them."

I want to be known not only for my conservative theology (which is very important to me) but also for my commitment to radical obedience.

9:06 AM Just said goodbye to Kim and Dan Scheel, who are on their way back to New York before returning to Ethiopia. They were the first overnight guests we've had in quite a while.

You may know that several years ago Becky and I began a ministry at Bradford Hall modeled after Edith and Francis Schaeffer's L'Abri. People come for up to a week, free of charge, on personal retreat. We've had singles, married couples, elders groups, pastors, and furloughing missionaries stay with us. I realize that Jesus does not plead for social avoidance or withdrawal, but occasionally it is good to get away and put body and soul back together again. One of the main reasons we purchased the farm and built our house was to accommodate kingdom servants who needed just such a refuge.

What exactly is the kingdom? It is people like Kim and Dan who focus on what's of real importance in life. In their case, they both work at Lake Langano in southern Ethiopia. Kim, a nurse, runs the health center, and Dan oversees their sports ministries. I can tell you it meant a lot to Becky to be able to compare notes with Kim since Becky oversees the clinic work we have in faraway Burji.

The integration  of social and spiritual ministry into one whole work affirms the incarnational model that Jesus Himself gave us when He went everywhere teaching, preaching, and healing the sick. The genius of the incarnation is that in Jesus Christ the social and spiritual worlds collide. No hocus pocus is involved here, just good old-fashioned hard work as we engage in basin ministries that embody kingdom values.

I'm very thankful that Kim and Dan could visit us. I'm also excited that we are able to resume our hospitality ministry now that B's treatments are finished.

Monday, June 21

10:58 PM What a great day! So blessed to have two missionaries to Ethiopia in our home. More on that tomorrow. The doctor, by the way, says my poor little toe is infected and has ordered me to take 2 antibiotics. I leave for Ethiopia in exactly one week -- healthy toe or not!

I leave you with this thought (Ted Engstrom of World Vision):

A congregation that is not deeply and earnestly involved in the worldwide proclamation of the gospel does not understand the nature of salvation.

Sunday, June 20

8:38 PM I thoroughly enjoyed Matthew's lesson this morning from Matt. 14:22-32 about walking on water.

I took detailed notes (as I always do) and came away with several quotable quotes including:

  • Jesus never used His Deity for His own advantage.

  • The presence of the Lord leads to courage.

  • Jesus appeared to them exactly when they needed Him.

I was greatly troubled, however, by one thing. And it has nothing to do with Matt's preaching. In my UBS Greek New Testament I noted two significant textual variants.

The first is found in Matt 14:29, where the text reads "Peter walked on the water and came to Jesus," while the far better attested reading (in my view) has "Peter walked on the water to come to Jesus." Big difference, right? The second variant is in the very next verse (v. 30): Here the text reads "Seeing the strong wind." Here the word "strong" is placed in square brackets in my Greek New Testament. In both cases the esteemed editors of my Greek New Testament gave pride of place to Aleph and B (or at least B). This kind of almost blind preference for the so-called "earliest and best" manuscripts -- what my friend Keith Elliott once referred to as "the hypnotic effect of Aleph and B" -- has internalized what many today would question objectively. I am not against the editors of the GNT. I enjoy and respect their work. But surely we have made progress since the days of the UBS 3 and 4/and NA 26 and 27. The most important ability one can learn in seminary (or in any school for that matter) is to "learn how to learn." This means asking questions of everyone and everything -- including views that tend to be promoted more in the name of dogma than theory. It is clear, for example, that the editors of the GNT felt that the reading of Aleph and B in v. 30 (where they omit the adjective "strong" -- obviously a case of homoioteleuton) was secondary, but still felt it necessary to tip their collective hat to these "hypnotic" witnesses by placing the adjective in brackets in the text. This would be hilarious if it weren't so tragic. Because behind it lies a whole field of study that is in desperate need of rethinking the evidence. This may be partly explained by the widespread philosophy in some of our seminaries that basically teach "If it's printed above the line in your Greek New Testament, it's most probably original." I'd rather approach the problem this way: Expose my students to the various approaches to the problem today, and then let them decide for themselves. You might even tell them that there are respectable NT scholars who actually believe the Byzantine text type is not edited or secondary in the Westcott and Hort sense. Finally, to learn how to learn, you have to love learning. You have to have an inquisitive mind. You have to ask yourself, "Yes, this is the status quo, but for that reason it is not to be accepted. Where is the evidence for that position?"

Well, as I said we had some wonderful, nourishing soul food at Mount Tirzah Baptist Church, followed by a delicious pizza at the local eatery in Charlotte Court House and a delectable dessert (biscuits dripping with Mountain Dew) prepared by Liz.

Then it was the boys turn to come to the aid of their Papa B, who tomorrow is going to see his physician to have his boo-boo checked out (I was already scheduled for my annual physical, so the timing is right).

Upon returning to the farm I spent about 5 hours helping Nate and Jess get up 3 trailer loads of some of the best looking fescue/orchard grass I've ever seen.

(Note: No haying pictures. Aren't you proud of me?)

So all in all, a wonderful, fulfilling day. I'm tired, but it's a good tired if you know what I mean -- and you agrarian types out there will know exactly what I mean.

9:42 AM Quote of the day:

Far better, I contend, that we spend 2nd year Greek studies trying to get students deeply into reading Greek qua Greek, and far less on memorising 183 uses of the dative.

Read Reflections on the intricacies of Greek grammar.

Saturday, June 19

9:18 PM Good evening, fellow bloggers! Haying is finished, at least for the day. Got gobs of raking and baling done. The weather was perfect too.

Right now I'm sitting in my office soaking my foot in Epsom salts. Here's a pic of the most beauteous spider bite you've ever seen.

Nice, huh? Well, as I said, we got up loads of hay today and we're still not finished with this field.

Tomorrow we're off to visit Caleb, Isaac, and Micah (and their folks of course) in Charlotte Court House. It will be quite a wonderful Father's/Grandfather's Day I'm sure. In the meantime, here is a video of today's haying. I know you're tired of this repetitiveness, so I promise this will be the VERY LAST farming video I will post. (Until the next one, that is.) Enjoy!


1:49 PM Quote of the day #2 (Samuel Zwemer):

The great Pioneer Missionaries all had 'inverted homesickness' -- this passion to call that country their home which was most in need of the Gospel. In this passion all other passions died; before this vision all other visions faded; this call drowned all other voices. They were the pioneers of the Kingdom, the forelopers of God, eager to cross the border-marches and discover new lands or win new-empires.

This is exactly my sentiment!

1:18 PM The power of the internet is getting more and more powerful. Read Please Don't Jump.

1:06 PM Just got the nicest note from recent SEBTS grad Bryan Barley, who I'm very glad to see is blogging again. Praying for you guys as you move to Denver as "world missionaries"!

12:34 PM The Great Commission Task Force has recommend that the IMB be allowed to serve foreign nationals who live in North America. I think this is a wonderful idea. But I would like to ask: In a flat world, why are national boundaries relevant? A striking thing about those wonderful Anabaptists of the sixteenth century was that they were oblivious to borders, the kind politicians establish.

As someone has said, they traveled across borders as easily as a bird flies from Montana to Alberta. Their notion of missions made no difference between "home" and "foreign" missions, and I quite agree with them. Perhaps if we combined our efforts under one great rubric ("World Missions") we could better recover a New Testament understanding of lostness. The lost who live, say, in Mecklenburg County, VA (where I reside) are no less lost than those who live in Zimbabwe. The "world" into which our Lord sends us lies right at every believer's doorstep. Every Christian is a missionary, and every place is a mission field. Leslie Newbiggen once put it this way:

The precise differentiation which entitles an activity to be called "missions" ... does not lie in the crossing of geographical frontiers.... It lies in the crossing of the frontier between faith in Christ ... and unbelief.

Needless to say, America is not and has never been a "Christian" nation. According to one statistic I recently saw, an estimated 258 million people in North America do not know the Lord Jesus Christ personally.

I believe, with time, that the distinction between home and foreign missions will lose its significance completely. At least I hope it will.

11:07 AM Quote of the day (Oswald J. Smith): "The mission of the church is missions."

10:59 AM Lazy morning. Feel like a Hawaiian blala. Got lots to do though. Only 11 days before I leave for Ethiopia, and I've got to submit a ms. to a publisher before then. Meanwhile one of my toes has been blessed with a giant spider bite and is SWOLLEN. Looks, too, like we'll be raking and baling today.

Hope yall are having a great Saturday.

Friday, June 18

8:22 PM Just to show you how hectic the SBC convention can get: Here's Dan Heimbach trying to talk over the background noise.


4:45 PM This is how far we got today:

We're currently looking for a flooring nailer. Actually, I think I like the porch without a railing, but code says otherwise. I spent the rest of the day weeding and watering B's vegetable garden.

By the way, B had her first post-treatment CT scan today. No results yet. I'll let you know as soon as we hear from the oncologist.

2:21 PM The latest addition to our home page is called Remembering My Father

8:07 AM So, how was Orlando? Expensive. The seminary very graciously put me up in the Hilton.

Not cheap. However, I noticed a nearby Days Inn whose rooms went for half the price. That's where I spent my second night.

Felt good to be able to save the school some money. Besides, little David had something Goliath lacked: An internet terminal in the lobby where guests could check their email. Gotta have that! I met lots of people, both colleagues and students (former and prospective). Jason Hall did an absolutely phenomenal job of setting up and managing the SEBTS booth. David Allen sauntered by one day, as did many other good friends.

And here's a former student of mine who caught me up on his life and ministry.

Multiply these encounters a hundredfold and you'll understand why these conferences are so much fun. I don't know how many messengers attended this year's meeting but the place was packed solid.

There was also a great deal of interest in our Ph.D. program.

The SEBTS luncheon on Wednesday, at which both Danny Akin and Johnny Hunt spoke, was fantastic. I came away from the convention with a new realization that a Great Commission resurgence will not begin at the denominational level. It will end there. A Great Commission commitment must begin in our homes and marriages, and then in our local churches, each one of them. This is clearly the pattern of the book of Acts. The church at Antioch, the world's first missional church, is proof of that. As I came to this realization, I was filled with excitement. Clearly missions is now possible on a scale as never before. I'm not talking about professional missionaries only. The work of the Great Commission will certainly include them. But the work is much broader than that. The playing field has been leveled as never before. It is level in the sense that everyone can now be a player, and in venues once thought impossible. Just do a Google. I did so the other day and found an interesting site, in Iraq of all places. A new American University has just opened there and is willing to pay you to be a fulltime missionary to Iraq -- as long as you are willing to teach business or English. Here education, as it so often has done in the past, is leading the way in breaking down walls and knitting the world together. The dynamic behind this globalization in education is practically begging us North Americans to capitalize on it. (I am tempted to grab a quick degree in ESL and apply for the job myself.)

Let's say you want to do missionary work in China. Did you know that secular Chinese universities are hiring Americans to teach courses in biblical studies? A couple of years ago I got an email from an American scholar who was taking a sabbatical in China and teaching at Shanghai University. He wrote to tell me he was using my beginning Greek grammar in one of his courses. I was flabbergasted. Here was an American evangelical teaching both Greek and New Testament Introduction in a Chinese university, at the expense of the Chinese. In Dalian -- China's silicon valley -- there are 22 universities and colleges with over 200,000 students. Most of these ambitious young people are eager to study English. The era of top-down missions -- where all missionaries are professionally trained -- is rapidly vanishing. Something infinitely more satisfying is arising alongside the traditional model. The faster the transition, the greater the potential for involving larger and larger numbers of "laypeople" (you and me) in the cause of the Great Commission. This flattening of world missions has the potential to unlock pent-up energies for hundreds of thousands of North Americans, Southern Baptists included.

It is impossible to exaggerate how important this development is. Couple this with developments in communications and transportation and the world has become not only flatter but a lot smaller. Becky's missionary parents traveled to Ethiopia for the first time in 1954. Their trip by freighter took 6 weeks. Today we can fly from Washington DC to Addis Ababa in a mere 19 hours. Moreover, wherever you're going, there's probably a job skill God can use. Working in a secular job while actually being a fulltime missionary may sound rather routine and dull. But these jobs often pay well, and you have a natural venue for establishing relationships with a view toward sharing the Good News. In addition, biblical education is possible as never before. It's is no longer campus-centered, and you can easily educate yourself -- even in Greek and Hebrew -- online. When Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft, his goal was to provide every individual "IAYF" -- information at your fingertips. His success is obvious.

The global information revolution has impacted missions. The world is now connected, and it seems that nothing will stop the digital representation of practically everything. Back when my in-laws were working in Ethiopia, this infrastructure was missing. Now everyone is online -- writing, blogging, tweeting. (Personally, I believe HTML is the greatest invention of the twentieth century, since it has allowed average people like me to author web pages with ease.) We have reached a point in missions that almost any of us can become personally involved, whether it's by going or informing or teaching via one's website. The great thing about modern missions, as I heard over and over again at the convention, is that anyone and everyone can be involved. Indeed, everyone ought to be involved. Even a Facebook page or a Twitter account can become a powerful evangelistic tool in this day of social networking. In other words, once the idea that every Christian is a fulltime missionary is accepted, the work of missions will advance with much less hierarchy -- and much less wasted money. In time, I think we will see a new equilibrium emerge in which professionally-trained missionaries will work side-by-side with an army of volunteers in a low-friction environment that enhances cooperation.

For me, working in Ethiopia is a dream come true. When Becky and I went to Ethiopia in 2004 our sole purpose was to see the places in her childhood that shaped her. Today we make two trips a year. There are many professional missionaries working in Ethiopia, but Becky and I have still found plenty of room to maneuver in places where most foreign missionaries would never think of going. As with blogging, where an army of citizen journalists has matched the official media outlets in the information gathering and disseminating routine, today there is an army of citizen missionaries harnessing the power of the Spirit and channeling it into significant ministries. And as never before, these ministries can stay connected. It is impossible to gauge the impact of the internet on the SBC, but when you hear Johnny Hunt say that he read hundreds of tweets during the Orlando convention it is clear that the social media are successfully monitoring the news. My generation had to adapt to the internet, but the current generation is growing up online. (I once read that one third of grade school students have their own email addresses.) The bottom line of what I am saying: It's time for us to wake up to the fact that there is a fundamental shift talking place in the way many of our churches are thinking about missions. We face the potential of tapping into the energy and abilities of five times as many people as before. As missions becomes flattened, local churches will realize they can plant other churches or send out missionaries themselves. The missions "connection" will move from vicarious support of foreign missionaries via missions giving to raising up local personnel and sending them forth. "Let's get the job done!" is a rallying cry I'm hearing from more and more Southern Baptists. And the students I'm seeing these days in seminary are like Swiss Army Knives -- sharp and adaptable. This is what happens when the missionary enterprise is no longer outsourced. Collaborative innovation flourishes -- and the result is expanded involvement on all levels in the Great Commission.

The point I took away from Orlando was a simple reminder: We are all fellow missionaries. The Body of Christ is moving into a world where less and less of the work of global evangelization is being outsourced. When we develop a missional mindset, we get rid of the notion that missions is only for others. We are moving into a world where more and more of us will do the work of an evangelist. In the meantime, missionary communications are being revolutionized. During the Orlando convention I kept up with a friend's mission trip to Greece via his tweets and twitpics. (I imagine he was keeping up with the convention as well.) In short, my two days in Orlando showed me that there is potential for our priorities to get completely reshuffled -- with an accompanying awareness that missions is ultimately the responsibility of local churches -- yours and mine. As I said earlier, a Great Commission resurgence will not not happen in the convention without it happening in my own life. Let's face it: We can say we are "Great Commission Christians" until we are blue in the face. Meanwhile, the world is going to hell. This week the BP chairman apologized for the oil spill and added: "We made it clear to the president that words are not enough. We should be judged by our actions." Southern Baptists need to hear that loud and clear. More and more of us are asking which of our values are worth preserving and which should disappear. I hope that all of this gets sorted out at the denomination level (and I predict that it will). But even if it doesn't, there is nothing to keep me and my local church from doing all we can to help advance God's kingdom on earth, both through our support of the CP and through our personal involvement.

Thursday, June 17

9:58 PM Quote of the day (Jerry Rankin):

If we get this right, the massive potential of Southern Baptists can be mobilized to impact lostness throughout North America and around the world. Baptisms will increase exponentially and record numbers of missionaries will be sent out in obedience to God’s call. Convention entities will move beyond expecting churches to provide generic support for programs and ministries to serving and facilitating the work and health of local churches. Progress will not be seen without a spiritual revival sweeping grassroots Southern Baptists, compelling them to share their faith at home and abroad. But it is unlikely revival will come through praying and waiting passively alone. God is more likely to grant revival when we are obedient to what He has told us to do.

Read The Morning After -- Reflections on the SBC.

9:55 PM Just finished a superb meal of tilapia, rice, and garden greens. I've had enough of restaurants for a while.

9:10 PM Chowan University announces a position in New Testament.

8:45 PM Back in Virginia. The convention was great. Saw gobs of former students and met many prospective ones, including Ph.D-ers. I'll post my thoughts tomorrow. Today I saw Clarksville ("my fair city") from 35,000 feet, both while flying up to Dulles and flying back to RDU from DC. My farm was down there somewhere, nestled in the sweet Virginia Piedmont. Funny, sometimes you have to go a long ways to travel a short distance. There's a parallel with the SBC. But that's for tomorrow. Becky looks like a million dollars. Everyone asked about her. Amazing how many people read the blog. What a blessing the internet is.

Got a lot of writing done, including a rather doleful essay about Father's Day, which, I hear, is this Sunday. Tomorrow Nate and I start on the porches. He cut a bunch of hay today, so we'll be getting that up soon. The weather has been perfect. As for Orlando's weather? Let's just say it's GOOD to be back home.

Monday, June 13

9:38 PM Got to leave the farm at 3:00 am to catch my flight to Orlando via Charlotte. May we all leave the convention more radically committed to Jesus and His Great Cause than when we arrived. If you're there, come see me at the SEBTS booth.

9:25 PM Grateful to report that both Alex Stewart and Paul Himes are heading into the home stretch. They passed their Ph.D. orals today with flying colors, despite the best efforts of their persecutors (Black, Beck, and Robinson) to sink their boats. Next step: prospectus and dissertation.

Heartiest congratulations to both of you gentlemen. Your accomplishment today represents the result of hundreds of hours of reading and study on your part and dozens of hours of mentorship with me. I enjoyed that phase and now I look forward to both of you making a solid contribution to New Testament scholarship and to the church of Jesus Christ -- soli Deo gloria!

9:12 PM My pal Alvin Reid has begun reporting from Greece. He doth speak the truth:

I think all believers should get out of the country at some point to tell people about Jesus who may be very different from us, but also to learn: to learn God is a big God of the whole world, to have our faith stretched, to learn about people and the gospel and how they intersect.

Amen to that! Read Greece Is the Word.

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