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July 2012 Blog Archives

Tuesday, July 31

8:04 PM For dinner tonight:

Prepared by one of the world's best dumpling makers. 

7:12 PM The Abnormal Anabaptist does it again with his essay Romans 12 -- The Core Gospel. I agree completely. In fact, while teaching Romans last week to a group of elders and church leaders in Ethiopia, my students were all required to commit to memory Rom. 12:9-21. This is the core Gospel! The Christian who simply spouts off correct doctrine but fails to pray and share and sacrifice is not an obedient Christian. We only have unity when we have a common life in Christ. We are to build love in the Body from the microscopic to the universal. Then the Gospel will be both caught and taught by others.

By the way, here's my class. We met 6 hours a day. In addition to Rom. 12:9-21, they memorized 1:16-17, 5:1, 8:1, and 12:1-2.

My translator is on the left. His name is Nisanet. People often ask me what it's like to work with a translator. When he is in sync with you, there's nothing like it. When he's not, there's nothing worse. Nisanet did a great job, even mimicking my gestures (and I tend to have lots of those).

Oh, how I love Romans! But it is more than a theological treatise -- so much more. Let us continually stress that the church is not an organization but an organism. Let the church be the church -- united in scandalous love for one another and for the lost.

6:36 PM Glad to see that Greek is being taught in Hawaii this year, hosted by the Antioch School. Tom Schreiner of SBTS will teach the capstone course in December.

For all you Islanders out there, this is a great opportunity to learn to read the Greek New Testament. The venue is a perfect one, too: Kalihi Union Church in the heart of Honolulu.

5:48 PM Odds and ends ...

1) Yet another job opening, this time in New Testament at Wake Forest University.

2) I'm thrilled to be speaking at Young Life Raleigh on Saturday, Sept. 29, from 10:00 - 1:00 pm. My topic will be how to read the Gospels. We will discuss my book Why Four Gospels? We'll be meeting at The Church of the Apostles in Raleigh, just near the beltline off Six Forks Rd. See you there!

3) Update: Of the 24 students in my Greek 3 class, only three could claim that they can speak a modern language fluently enough to be able to pray and preach in it. Are we missing, here in America, the Bilingual Advantage?

4) P.S. I am so grateful for diligent, hard-working students. Thank you for doing so well on today's quiz. Looking forward to talking about Phil. 1:12-26 in class tomorrow.

8:08 AM Today we begin our study of NT Greek linguistics based on my book, Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek. For example, we will see that to be a linguist one does not also have to be a polyglot. What do you think? Is it necessary to know several languages to be able to handle the biblical text accurately? Is it helpful?

Monday, July 30

8:08 PM Since we are beginning our study of Philippians ... 

Introductory Matters

Introducing Philippians

The Real Message of Philippians

Chapter Overviews

Lasting Lessons from Philippians 1

Lasting Lessons from Philippians 2

Lasting Lessons from Philippians 3

Lasting Lessons from Philippians 4

Paragraph Studies

God's Better Way (Phil. 2:1-11)

Beyond Religious Infighting (Phil. 2:12-18)

Paul's "Thankless Thanks" in Phil. 4:10-20

Other Essays

Servants in Training

To Go On Living Is Christ

Howard Marshall on Christian Harmony

A Great Commission Marriage

The Joy of Volunteering

8:03 PM Today we looked at this verse in our Greek class: "Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Philippi along with those who oversee and serve." Gerald Hawthorne noted (1) that Paul allows Timothy to share the same platform with him, and (2) that he addresses the overseers and deacons in the church as extensions of the Body and not as being over it. "How is one to begin to attack selfishness and disunity? By subtly showing from the very beginning that in the Church seniority and high calling do not put one Christian leader above another (Paul and Timothy are one -- they are slaves of Christ Jesus) and that 'church supervisors' are not above serving...."

This is what unity in the cause of the Gospel looks like! Thus, from the outset, Paul is emphasizing that as we work together for the Gospel we become partners with God in His work of salvation. I summarized this theme as follows in class today:

Paul = his Gospel name

Timothy = Paul's Gospel helper

Paul and Timothy = a Gospel team

Paul then Timothy = Gospel mentoring

Slaves = Gospel sacrifice

To all = Gospel unity

Overseers and servers = Gospel servants

One last thought: I believe it would go a long way in re-establishing a biblical ecclesiology if were to call deacons "servers." As Hawthorne and many others have rightly pointed out, these expressions (overseers and deacons) were not technical terms when Paul used them.

Tomorrow: Phil. 1:3-11 -- thanksgiving and prayer.

6:49 PM When David Dockery and I co-edited our book Interpreting the New Testament (B & H), we gave the lead-off essay to Peter Davids, whose assignment was to distinguish between "Authority, Hermeneutics, and Criticism." In other words, not every question of biblical interpretation impinges on the matter of authority or inerrancy. Some subjects are quite simply matters of interpretation and/or hermeneutics. Getting this distinction right is essential if we are to be true biblical scholars. So it was with pleasure that I stumbled upon Michael Kruger's latest essay titled Roundtable with Mike Licona on the Resurrection of Jesus. I agree wholeheartedly with Professor Kruger:

I do not think that Licona’s view would constitute a violation of inerrancy… However, when we evaluate a certain position, we should do more than answer the narrow question of whether it violates inerrancy. Inerrancy is not the only critical issue we should consider. A view can have other problems—or could lead to other problems—even if it is not a violation of this important doctrine. My concern about Licona’s position falls into this camp. Personally, I think the evidence for taking Matt. 27:52-53 as non-historical and symbolic is pretty thin. And when the basis for a certain interpretation is that thin, it raises concerns about whether the same hermeneutical method could possibly be employed when we are faced with other passages that prove to be problematic or embarrassing. In fact, I think this is probably the main issue that has been driving this whole controversy.

Note: The matter is basically one of hermeneutics and not of inerrancy. I would also note that the entire roundtable discussion can be found in our new seminary journal, Southeastern Theological Review, whose editor is my friend Heath Thomas (also the new head of Ph.D. studies at Southeastern). This is scholarship at its very best, and I encourage you to request your librarian to subscribe to the journal.

6:34 PM Scholars have debated for centuries where the crossing of the Red Sea (Sea of Reeds or Yam Suf) took place. I believe I know the answer. Below is the Yam Suf ("Sea of Reeds") at Rosewood Farm.

Due to near-drought conditions, our goats have been able to get past the woven wire that once dead-ended in the water but now hangs a foot or two above dried-out ground. Hence "the crossing of the Red Sea."

I hereby declare that the exit has been fixed, and any goat that transgresses again will reap the consequences.

2:54 PM Regent University announces an opening in Old Testament.

2:46 PM I see I'm not the only one not looking for the "perfect" church. Arthur, you are right on!

(More on the topic: Paper Perfect Churches.)

2:40 PM Just picked up some good friends from the bus station in Durham. They are visiting here from Asia and spending a few days with us on the farm.

2:34 PM Grateful to Crossway Books for sending me a copy of Understanding Scripture.

The book offers helpful advice on biblical hermeneutics. My chapter is called "Greek, and How It Works."

6:10 AM I'm enjoying Mark Stevens series on pastors as shepherds. I have one observation. In Eph. 4:11, Paul mentions apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, but one would be hard-pressed to identify a New Testament "pastor" by name. Indeed, the word translated "pastors" in Eph. 4:11 is a metaphor rather than a literal term denoting an ecclesiastical office. Note the following occurrences of poimen (and its plural poimenes) in the New Testament:

  • Matt. 9:36: But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.

  • Matt. 25:32: All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.

  • Matt. 26:31: Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written:
           ‘I will strike the Shepherd,
           And the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’

  • Mark 6:34: And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things.

  • Mark 14:27: Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written:
           ‘I will strike the Shepherd,
           And the sheep will be scattered.’

  • Luke 2:8: Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.

  • Luke 2:15: So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”

  • Luke 2:18: And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

  • Luke 2:20: Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

  • John 10:2: But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.

  • John 10:11: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.

  • John 10:11: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.

  • John 10:12: But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them.

  • John 10:14: I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.

  • John 10:16: And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

  • Eph. 4:11: And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors [shepherds] and teachers….

  • Heb. 13:20: Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant….

  • 1 Pet. 2:25: For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

In light of the consistent usage of poimen in the New Testament, it is ironic that the term most frequently used today to describe church leaders – "pastor" – is found only once in the entire New Testament to refer to followers of Christ, and then only in the plural. The word itself simply denotes a "shepherd." It's an appropriate image. In Jesus' day, shepherds were without status. Theirs was a lowly, humble occupation. Thus the metaphor is fitting, for our Lord said, "Let him who is the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as the servant" (Luke 22:26). In a similar vein, the apostle Peter wrote:

The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away (1 Pet. 5:1-4).

When Peter wrote these words, most people were thoroughly familiar with sheep and shepherding (as they are today in places like Africa). Elders, he says, are like shepherds who guard the flock under the tender supervision of the Chief Shepherd. They feed the sheep with God's Word and lead them by example. They keep the sheep from wandering off into pastures that might harm them. Theirs is an enormous task, but faithful elders will reap the reward of an unfading crown of glory, awarded by the Chief Shepherd Himself.

Sunday, July 29

6:08 PM More odds and ends ...

1) Becky and her mom worked fast and furiously on a jigsaw puzzle while I was gone.

It's a real beaut too.

The idea was to get Becky off her feet and relax. It worked.

2) Who in the world would dress up like this for church? Only missionaries who love Ethiopia! Marsh, Leigh, and Thomas, yall look GREAT.

3) Quote of the day (from Jason's message this morning):

There are people in our lives whose sin frustrates us, whose lifestyle frustrates us. It's difficult to demonstrate love to them. Even in the midst of the frustration, the power of love is what will ultimately bring them to Christ.

4) Tonight I'm working on the page proofs for the second edition of Paul, Apostle of Weakness for Wipf and Stock. Will be glad to see that book back in print after 28 years.

5:55 PM On our first Sunday in Ethiopia we were privileged to dedicate to the glory of God a new meeting hall for the believers in one town there.

Becky and I began praying and asking God to meet this need many years ago. Despite setbacks and much opposition, today hundreds of believers meet there. I can tell you, the older I get the more I realize that all that matters in life is that you love and serve Jesus by loving and serving others. I must confess that I was skeptical when we first thought of the idea of erecting this meeting hall. The challenges were constant. However, God never forgot us. The work was accomplished through the generosity of God's people in America who care about Jesus, who want to lay treasure up in heaven, whose chief goal is not to get rich but just to please God. I will not mention their names because they would not want that. But the memorial they are leaving behind! You can imagine that seeing all this I went to bed that night saying, "God, that's what You're all about. Buildings cannot contain You, but this meeting hall was sorely needed. Thank you for providing it." Yes, that's what life is all about -- meeting the needs of His people. This congregation kept being evicted from the rooms they were renting, for no other reason than the fact they were Jesus-followers. No private home was large enough to accommodate them. Now they have a place to meet.

It would take a whole book to chronicle all that God is doing in this town in Ethiopia. We are commanded to "share what we have with God's people who are in need" (Rom. 12). And this is the result.

Oh God, thank You for this place of refuge. Thank you for this edification station. Under all kinds of threats, make Your people strong. May Your love burst through every obstacle and hasten the day when every tongue will confess Jesus as Lord of lords. Amen.

7:32 AM Odds and ends ...

1) Jon Glass sent this picture to Becky from Dulles before we boarded our plan for Addis. Jon has now got me hooked on Caramel Macchiato. I shall never forgive him. What an incredible drink.

2) Heartiest congratulations to the new dean of Talbot School of Theology. Clint is a good friend of mine and a former Greek student. I loved teaching at Talbot and still think it is one of the premier seminaries in  the nation.

3) Greek 3 (Syntax and Exegesis) begins tomorrow. We're translating Philippians together. I have three pages of notes on just the first two verses.

4) We say goodbye to mom today as she flies back to Dallas. Thanks, mom, for watching over Becky during my absence. Bon voyage!

Saturday, July 28

4:41 PM In 1998 there were 120,000 of them. In 1998, 450,000. In 2003, 1,000,000. And in 2006, 2,200,000. These are the numbers of 1-2 week mission trips taken annually by U.S. citizens. In 2006 alone, Americans spent over 1 billion dollars on short term mission trips.

It is worth it?

There is no one-size-fits-all-answer. As you know, I just returned from 2 weeks of intense ministry in Ethiopia. I took 15 other Americans with me. Each partner provided a component of what was needed to address some of the spiritual needs we found in Africa. We came with three things. First, there was love. Christ's love. Second, there was obedience. God wants obedience, not sacrifice. Finally, there was service. God used people who wanted to be used. Each of us is a nobody. But we presented our bodies as living sacrifices. We went a step beyond believing to giving and suffering (Phil. 1:29). As near as I can understand Scripture, these are about the best three things we can pass on to others. I'm proud of our team. They were so faithful. No superstars. No prima donnas. Each heart bleeding for others. They prayed more earnestly and importunately than anyone I've ever met. We're an odd mixture of faith and doubt, boldness and timidity, strength and weakness. Each was awed (or even frightened!) by the magnitude of the task to which God had called us. But He used us, and for that we are grateful.

It was mid-way through my career that God laid the world on my heart: First Europe, then South Korea, then Africa, then Asia and the Middle East. I have had the privilege of ministering on these continents dozens of times since 1990. I am now persuaded that each local congregation has an obligation to the ends of the earth. So does each individual believer. Traveling in rural Ethiopia is about the closest thing I have ever experienced to frontline missions. It is virtually impossible not to respond to a need on the spot, however great. I recall seeing a young man -- our Christian bus driver's helper -- in bare feet. He obviously needed shoes, and he got them. A week later he repented of his sins and confessed Christ as his Savior publicly. For five years I prayed for the salvation of a high Muslim leader. It was absolutely uncanny how God allowed me to stay in his village hut during my visits there. On my last trip to this area of Ethiopia in 2010 he was close. Now it is done.

Time and again I've seen God put me in the right place at the right time to see a need that took more faith than I had to fulfill. And then He met it.

I am a sinner. No one knows this better than I do. But I also know the exceedingly gracious forgiveness and love of our Savior. How can I refuse to share that love with others? It's been about a decade since I first visited Ethiopia. Becky and I just wanted to see where she grew up, where she was molded, so to speak. My second night in Ethiopia I laid my head on my pillow and said to Becky, "Honey, I love these people so much it hurts." It is a privilege to serve alongside our Ethiopian brothers and sisters. I am ceaselessly amazed that God grants me a part in this work. Soon I will travel to Asia (October), South America (November), Europe (March 2012), and then back to Asia (April). It takes much prayer and deliberation for me to reach my decision to go on these trips. And Becky is right there with me, if not physically then emotionally and spiritually. Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision and Samarian's Purse, once heard someone say, "Did you hear that Bob Pierce is dying of leukemia?" He butted in, "No! Bob Pierce is not dying of leukemia; he is living with leukemia!" Becky has had some of her greatest ministries since she contracted cancer. She's never been more alive! I have been blessed beyond measure and challenged by what God can do through a woman who lets Him.

Ditto for my Ethiopia teammates. Though I was initially a stranger to some of them, we have become close friends. Little did I know that being with them would enlarge my vision for world missions even more. So ... are short term mission trips worth it? Ask them. They will always be special to me. Why? Because they are friends of the "little" people, the hurting and hopeless, people who are forgotten, except in heaven. May God richly bless their efforts, and may their fruit remain. No, we did not meet every need. No one can do that. But we obeyed God and did as much as He gave us the faith and ability to do. I'm forever grateful for that.

Yours in the Great Cause,


P.S. Your prayers were felt -- and answered. Thank you.

Wednesday, July 11

7:40 AM Good morning bloggers of the world! It's been crazy here. I'm alive and well -- but barely. It seems I'm fighting a chest cold, but I think I'm winning the battle (thanks, mom, for the throat lozenges and vitamins). Bottom line: We're leaving today, ready (and 100 percent) or not. I'm certainly looking forward to this trip. You might remember that we've made a whole slew of visits to Ethiopia in the past 8 years. Now it's time to return. I invite you to join me in the process. Here's how.


No need to write. I'll be pretty much incommunicado for a while. My teammates also ask for your prayers:

  • Jason H.

  • Jason E. and Kylie (father-daughter)

  • Dale

  • Chris and Brady (father-son)

  • Nicolle and Josh (mother-son)

  • Leigh, Marshall, and Thomas (family)

  • Tope

  • Rachel and Maggie (mother-daughter)

  • Nigusse

I have to say -- this is a GREAT team, and I'm super eager to get started working with them, even though I'm dragging. It's just like God to remind me that it's through weakness that He best works. Like I've said before, in doing mission work we're overextended by intent. So, I thank you ahead of time for keeping tuned in, even though I won't be officially "blogging" for a few days. In the meantime I'll be missing Becky. She's undoubtedly the glue that holds these trips together. This effort would be impossible without her labors. I'm not saying this just because I'm her husband. It's a fact. Please pray for her too.

I leave you with the 4 "Alls" of Matthew 28:19-20 (the Great Commission of Jesus):

  • pasa exousia = "all authority" = unlimited power

  • panta ta ethne = "all the nations" = unlimited need

  • panta hosa eneteilamen = "all that I have commanded" = unlimited expectations

  • pasas tas hemeras = "all the days" = unlimited resources

Jesus promises to be with us "all the days" -- that is, each and every day, one day at a time. Until we meet again, stay centered in Him, and live in love (Eph. 5:1-2).


Tuesday, July 10

6:16 PM Hey friends! Thanks again for all your thoughts and prayers. Things are getting into high gear for the trip. Since I haven't had much to do of late (ha ha!), I thought I'd write a new essay for our home page. It's got the "catchy" title Why I Go. Well, title aside, I think it's an essay that will encourage and challenge you.



8:40 AM Odds and ends ...

1) Becky and her mom are off to get B's blood work done. The CT scan taken yesterday shows some possible cancer activity in her spine, so we will be talking with Becky's oncologist tomorrow. Otherwise the nodules in her lungs are showing no additional growth, which is very good news indeed.

2) I see that China may be changing its one-child policy in light of the forced abortion of a 7-month old fetus. Actually, I'm told you can have more than one child if you are willing and able to pay a "penalty" of about $6,000. When Beijing's new leaders are installed new year, I'll guess we'll find out what, if anything, happens in this regard.

By the way, I think we should impose a "one-post-a-day" policy in the blogosphere. This will apply to those bloggers who are constantly updating their sites with witty and exceptionally interesting material. Enough already! There's no way us lesser mortals can keep up with you!

3) Now this looks like fun:

"Community surfing," I guess you could call it.

4) You can keep up-to-date with the persecuted church worldwide at Compass Direct News. I do.

5) Did you know that the very first Baptist church to be established in America was founded by Roger Williams in Rhode Island in 1638? And guess what? It was called the First Baptist Meeting House. I much prefer this to "church," don't you? (Truth be told, it was also known as the First Baptist Church, but its identity as a meeting house was prominent.)

Incidentally, when I speak at the dedication of our new meeting house in Alaba this Sunday, my text will be Acts 7:38: "However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands." Should make for an interesting meeting, you think?

6) Read Hypocrisy of the First Magnitude in Afghanistan. And no, I do not plan on watching the video of her execution/murder.

Monday, July 9

4:38 PM Hey Ethiopia Team members! If you're taking Doxycycline (like me) as a prophylactic for malaria, please note:

Doxycycline may cause inflammation of the esophagus when taken on an empty stomach, especially at bedtime, so it should always be taken with food and never before lying down.... The usual dosage of doxycycline is 100 mg daily starting one or two days before arrival in the malarious area and continuing through the trip and for four weeks after departure. For children greater than 12 years of age, the dosage is 2 mg/kg daily up to the adult dosage of 100 mg. Doxycycline should not be given to children less than 12 years old, pregnant or lactating women, or anyone with a history of tetracycline allergy. It should also be avoided in anyone taking hepatotoxic medications and anyone with a history of liver disease, lupus, or myasthenia gravis.

To repeat:

The usual dosage of doxycycline is 100 mg daily starting one or two days before arrival in the malarious area and continuing through the trip and for four weeks after departure.

Guys and gals, this means you should probably begin taking it on Wednesday and certainly no later than Thursday.

4:02 PM I've always despaired of coming up with any exhaustive list of what I believe a New Testament church ought to look like. The notion of a royal priesthood captures well, I think, my overall perspective of the composition of an authentically New Testament congregation. I have frequently argued this point on my website and in my more recent print publications. However, there are several strands in this perspective that bear unraveling, if only in a tentative way. The following list is a good place to start.

  • I am convinced that the house church rather than the sanctuary church was the New Testament norm.

  • I am convinced of the normalcy of tent making leadership.

  • I am convinced that the church exists in part to equip all of its members for ministry.

  • I am convinced that the leadership of the church should be shared for the health of the congregation.

  • I am convinced that top-down structures of leadership are unquestionably more efficient -- efficient in doing almost everything than equipping, which is the primary task of leadership. 

  • I am convinced that the process of appointing new elders is best done on the basis of recognizing who is already serving as an elder in the church.

  • I am convinced that any local church that takes seriously Jesus as the Senior Pastor will not permit one man to become the titular head of the church.

  • I am convinced that the essential qualifications for ministry in the church have little or nothing to do with formal education and everything to do with spiritual maturity.

  • I am convinced that the church is a multigenerational family, and hence one of the things that makes the church the church is the presence of children, parents, and other adults.

  • I am convinced that because every local church has all the spiritual gifts it needs to be complete in Christ, believers should be exposed to the full expression of the charisms (grace-gifts) when they gather, in contrast to specialized ministries that center around singularly gifted people.

  • I am convinced that the local church is the scriptural locus for growing to maturity in Christ, and that no other training agency is absolutely needed.

  • I am convinced that the local church ought to be the best Bible school going.

  • I am convinced that Paul's letters were not intended to be studied by ordinands in a theological college but were intended to be read and studied in the midst of the noisy life of the church.

  • I am convinced that the church is a theocracy directly under its Head (Jesus Christ), and that the will of the Head is not mediated through various levels of church government but comes directly to all His subjects.

  • I am convinced that the goal of leadership is not to make people dependent upon its leaders but dependent upon the Head.

  • I am convinced that since all believers are "joints" in the body, ministry is every believer's task.

  • I am convinced that pastor-teachers, as precious gifts of Christ to His church, are to tend the flock of God by both personal care and biblical instruction, equipping God's people for works of service both in the church and in the world.

  • I am convinced that the role of pastor-teacher is a settled ministry in a local congregation.

  • I am convinced that leaders should communicate that every part of the body is interrelated to the other parts and indispensable; every member will be appreciated, every charism will be treasured.

  • I am convinced that the whole church, the community of all the saints together, is the clergy appointed by God for ministry. The fundamental premise upon which I operate is that each believer in the church needs to be equipped for his or her own ministry both in the church and in the world. If the church is to become what God intended it to be, it must become a ministerium of all who have placed their faith in Christ. The whole people of God must be transformed into a ministering people. Nothing short of this will restore the church to its proper role in the kingdom of God.

If you are interested in pursuing the study of church polity, I am contemplating taking on a doctoral student in the near future to conduct research in this area. If so, please contact me at

3:45 PM Spain ... Guyana ... Taiwan ... Indonesia ... Moldova ... South Asia ... Malaysia ... Japan. Plan now to join us on one of our SEBTS mission trips this coming school year.

11:03 AM Looking ahead...

I'm making plans to attend a conference at Dallas Seminary's Howard Hendricks' Center for Christian Leadership on Sept. 17, 2012. It's called "Recovering Our Creative Calling" and features Andy Crouch and Darrell Bock. For detailed information, click here. While in Dallas my father-in-law and I anticipate visiting the Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit at SWBTS in Forth Worth. Care to join us at either venue?

10:24 AM Congratulations to New Testament colleague Max Turner on his new Festschrift. Well-deserved honor indeed.

10:20 AM Unbelievable. Simply unbelievable. You list Alfred Hitchcock's greatest movies and North by Northwest fails to make the cut? Only a "dishonorable mention"? Shameful. From the opening credits to the thrilling dénouement on Mount Rushmore, NBN is an unmistakable classic. Best of all is the crop duster scene, which only the most skillful cinematic execution could have accomplished.

Cary Grant's acting was never better, and Herrman's score is beautifully haunting. James Mason as chief villain rounds out an exceptional cast. It is simply a cinematic tour de force. It's thoroughly Hitchcockian, and just terrific moviemaking.

10:05 AM This letter arrived in my inbox this morning, with the subject line "Lifting Weights -- Commentaries Division."

I was reading some advance-of-publication material for Craig S. Keener's forthcoming (in September, from Baker Academic) commentary on the Book of Acts. This is going to be a four-volume monster. Volume 1 - nearly 1,100 pages, covers introductory matters and just the first two chapters of Acts. Holy moly! I can remember reading complaints 20 or 25 years ago when commentaries started stretching into 2 volumes. Now, at least with this one, we're up to four volumes!

No doubt about it: Kenner will receive the award. As for Greek studies, here's the volume I require for Weight Lifting 301:

9:52 AM Letter to self:

Okay, Dave, the game's up. You're going back to Ethiopia, and you're going to pay a price. Go with God, and there is always pain. You can't be a Sunday Christian on a mission trip. I won't kid you -- the price is high for going to the nations. The pressure will be enormous. The trick is to get it working for you, not against you. Remember that.

Incidentally, you've got some excess baggage you need to leave behind. No power ties. Position won't cut it. Missions is a way of living, not a method. Unless you abandon your rights, you'll scuttle the mission. Thankfully, all souls are vulnerable to prayer. Even yours. If you ever forget about the power He's promised, you're done. Face it, Dave, you have a low pain threshold. But you can't test God's resources until you attempt the impossible. Can you do this? You bet!

One last piece of advice. Pray every day. Before you do something, pray. After you do something, pray. Thank God ahead of time for how He will use you. Yes, you. Because you're a co-laborer with Him. Because you have made a commitment to Christ, to the church, and to God's world. Jesus was a towel wearer and a basin bearer. And now He wants to live through you. Believe it or not, you can help people find Christ. Forget your inadequacies. Bury them. The truth is, you are in way over your head. Missions is tough, tiring, and terrifying. It's also terrific. Have faith that God will use your serving lifestyle. Willingly submit to His agenda each day, and put yourself out on a limb. He's worth it.

Sunday, July 8

2:54 PM Hebrews expert Brian Small offers up an excellent review of Karen Jobe's new work, Letters to the Church.

2:47 PM The Great Escape from Sagan in March of 1943 is an amazing part of WW II history. Perhaps the most charismatic protagonist in this story is Johnny Dodge, whose biography has just been released. Read a review here.

It's at the top of my to-get list. Endurance, patience, and resourcefulness -- traits needed as much today as then.

2:24 PM This is what a family reunion looks like in Southside Virginia. I have to smile. God has poured out His blessings upon us. Through all our ups and downs, I'm reminded: God never makes mistakes. This is my family. It is much more than I could ever have dreamed it to be.

10:08 AM Group photo of the Lapsley clan:

We're about to have church -- at home.

Saturday, July 7

2:20 PM Reunion update:

1) Becky's sister Barbara really put on a show last night as she traced the "life and times" of Brad and Betty Lapsley.

2) Let's see, so Brad proposes twice to Betty? How can that be? Explanation please, dad.

3) Have you ever seen a more somber picture? Actually, they were very happy to be going to Africa.

4) Here are the grandkids introducing Nigusse to Uno. He won.

5) I tell you, the weekend is rapidly going to the dogs.

More later....

12:50 PM I see that now there are 8 marks of a true church. Which makes me a bit "mark worried." At its best, lists like this one add to the richness of the discussion about what makes a church biblical. At its worst, they lead to an irresponsible "boxing in" of Christianity. I worry sometimes that our marks are missing the mark. Nevertheless, the post I linked to above has demonstrated a real need to be able to define what a biblical church looks like. A good place to start might be Acts 2:41-47.

Friday, July 6

7:52 PM All have arrived safely. We're about to watch some movies of mom and dad. Right now our bellies are full of some awfully good Ethiopian food. Later: More ice cream on the porches. Grateful for godly in-laws.

Becky serving up:

Ben yakking with his dad.

The Lapsley clan.

1:30 PM Jason Kees writes Five Reasons I Blog. Why do you blog?

1:23 PM It's a bit ironic, but an Aussie has commented on the recent controversy in the SBC. Craig's post is brilliantly argued. (Internet pat on back.) The unique unity of the Body of Christ is intended to reflect the loving union of God's triune essence. This should help us to understand why unity is such a big deal to God, and why He strongly urges His church to preserve it (Eph. 4:3). I encourage you to honor that priority. It really is a big deal!

Revolutionaries, let's seek peace and pursue it.

12:12 PM There is too much to share about the work in Ethiopia. (I almost said "our" work, but the work is God's.) Here's a picture that means a lot to me.

It's of a church building that has taken us many years to complete due to a few hiccups (well, the opposition was actually pretty intense). But a week from Sunday we will be dedicating the completed structure to God. Again, I find myself thinking, Am I really experiencing this? I am a man from a developed nation. Here we think nothing of spending a few million dollars on a church building. All the Ethiopians ask for is a simple structure, a meeting place with a roof on it, no frills involved. If you have never been in one of these churches you are missing out on what has got to be one of the greatest joys of life. As I sit here at my computer in my air-conditioned home, I'm wondering, How many more of these places could we still build? It's going to take a complete reversal of our values here in America to do it. I realize that. And it's gotta start with me.

I'm ready.

10:54 AM We had pancakes for breakfast this morning, after which Becky and her mom went grocery shopping in South Boston for the reunion's food. I wasn't kidding when I said this is going to be a great weekend for B. She's needed some R & R, and what better way to relax than to plan a menu with your mother and then run to the store. All this translates into the fact that I get the joy of watching Becky in her element -- hospitality.

Life really can be that simple. Sometimes all we need is a hug -- and a shopping cart.

8:05 AM Thanks, David, for the good word.

8:00 AM My beginning Greek grammar is currently being translated into a language spoken by millions and millions of people. The question is: How to publish it? In the ancient world, Roman roads spanned more than 250,000 miles, creating a network for the expansion of the Gospel. Today's Roman roads are online. Currently the sale of smartphones and tablets outstrips that of lap- and desk-tops. The world is not merely "connected." It's "hyperconnected," says Thomas Freidman. In this digital age, it's time to think outside the box -- or at least within the new box. In the nation I mentioned, thousands of pastors will need training in the biblical languages. Most of them are connected. Interactive media may well be the best delivery system. Time will tell, but I am leaning in this direction.

Thursday, July 5

8:32 PM Despite thunderstorms in the area, mom and dad touched down safely at RDU at 3:00 pm. After picking them up we drove to Bradford Hall, where we enjoyed a supper of roast pork topped off with a cup of ice cream on the front porch.

Becky then took her mom for a spin in the new golf cart she got for her birthday.

In fact, they have not been seen since. I'll let you know if they return.

4:49 PM Good insights here from James Hernando, who teaches at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri: Principles of Spiritual Leadership from the Salutations of Paul. Among other things, Hernando emphasizes how Paul put the emphasis on equality:

Careful scrutiny of Paul’s epistles yields a remarkable discovery. Paul did not regard his subordinates as subordinates. They were colaborers or fellow servants of the Lord. Paul did not emphasize his apostolic calling, position, or authority when relating to those he served as an apostle. Paul understood his authority as an apostle, but he did not mention it except when he needed to deal with churches or groups that were opposing or threatening the work of the Lord.

He concludes:

An inherent dialectic exists between authoritarian structures and the egalitarian design of the Body that Paul teaches. Hierarchy left untended undermines collegiality. Ecclesiastical structure or polity that communicates a hierarchy of status, position, and authority works against building a ministry team of equal, colaborers in Christ. Those who have inherited that structure may want to consider altering or modifying it by implementing policies, procedures, and practices that mitigate the tensions of hierarchy and promote a cooperative team spirit and collegiality.

Sounds good to me. I'm all for "mitigating the tensions of hierarchy."

4:33 PM Well, I went to the office today. My suite is a rather quiet place. Josh Waggoner (music and theology) just returned from a 7-week trip to the UK, researching his doctoral dissertation. Todd Borger (Old Testament) is on a Boy Scout trip to New Mexico. Andreas Köstenberger has just moved in. I'm eager to get to know him better. Serving here never gets old. I've been in Wake Forest for 14 years and still love this place. I know it's a cliché, but it seems like it was yesterday when I arrived at Southeastern. Along the way, it's evolved into a life of writing and teaching and mentoring and mission trips. Thank you for being part of my journey. Thank you for caring about me and about what I do. Thank you for the emails you send and the prayers you pray (especially you, Craig). In a few weeks I'll be back in the saddle, trying to train a new generation of Jesus followers to, well, follow Jesus rather than their traditions. Which is why I'll keep writing and blogging and speaking and traveling to the uttermost parts. I grew up as a spoiled child in an island paradise. Next week I'll leave for a dusty, malaria-ridden town in Africa, to eat with my hands and use a hole for a bathroom. Because of God's mercy, for the rest of my life I hope to live this way, no matter how busy my "other" lives as farmer and professor become. I don't know how I'm going to do this. I know myself too well. I am overwhelmed by the prospects of having to face my self-centeredness and inbred laziness. I can't fathom it. But I know God will be with me. Pray with me, will you? Pray that my old self will be overcome, that God would somehow use this weak but yielded vessel to be a testament to His grace. I'm starting to think I'm getting too old for all this. Time is traveling at warp speed. I don't think it will ever get easier. So pray for me. I'm asking God to fill me up so that I can pour myself out.

P.S. These were awaiting me on my office desk when I arrived today: Alex Stewart's doctoral dissertation, and Michael Stover's Th.M. thesis. So proud of both of you.

And here is the syllabus for my Greek 3 class, along with the study questions for our two major textbooks: It's Still Greek to Me, and Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek. All have been posted to Moodle.

I love my office and all that it allows me to do.

Wednesday, July 4

8:53 PM Had a nice hot dog fry at church tonight. Inspired by Arthur Sido, I greeted everyone with a rousing "Happy Violation of Romans 13 Day!" (Just kidding.) Before we ate, our leadership team met to go over some final logistics for the trip next week to Ethiopia.

Jason and Leigh will accompany the team, while Mama B will guard the fort. Please pray for all of us to recover our strength from a grueling week of preparations, especially Becky, who worked the hardest. Pray that the weekend with her family is nothing but a delight for her.

4:07 PM Fuller Seminary in Texas announces an opening in Religion.

4:05 PM One of my doctoral students writes:

I love teaching. I absolutely love it. What makes teaching so wonderful to me? First, there is an inherent joy and benefit in the preparation of a course, studies that you care about. Second, you never really learn something best until you teach it to others. Third, you never learn something most like when you study to teach it to others. Fourth, you never have as much joy for something you have learned and care about then when you see someone else learn it and value it as you have come to do so. There are many more reasons, but these are just a handful.

I love students like that!

Read Greek Class Update.

3:59 PM Spurgeon: "I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock." Good word for stressful times. 

3:45 PM Students, I'll be on campus tomorrow to do some studying. If you'd like to meet up, let me know. Mi oficina es su oficina.

3:32 PM I was going to say something profound about today's holiday, but since so many others have already done such a good job, I think I'll spare you.


But I'll try and keep my comments brief.

Let me share with you a personal word about the Fourth. But first let me steal a line from another author. It comes from Acts 20:24. Here Paul says, "Neither do I count my life dear to myself, so that I might finish my course with joy and the ministry I've received from the Lord Jesus, to testify about the Gospel of grace." That one statement pretty well sums up my whole perspective on life. This is the perfect example of the proper attitude toward things we think are "dear." Paul undoubtedly counted his own life as "dear." Life is one of the most precious gifts of God we can enjoy. But note that he added, "dear to myself." Those two words (one in Greek) make all the difference. I am not one to promote asceticism. Nor do I think we should abhor our nationality. America is indeed a "dear" and precious thing, and so are a hundred other things. I would never desire poverty or persecution or to live under a dictatorship for its own sake. But all these things I'd gladly choose for the sake of the Gospel. It is not easy to be a true Christian in America. Especially in America, where compromise is so easy. We think we can live for Jesus without praying a price. But there's a cross for each of us to bear. We can choose to suffer for Jesus. Or we can opt out of it. Paul chose to love Jesus more than his own life. It wasn't that he hated his own life. It wasn't that he thought his life was unimportant. It's just that something was of greater importance.

In light of all this, I ask a simple question: Since when did God say we could opt out of the cross-life just because we are Americans? Paul was willing to die because his citizenship was in heaven. He was living for another world. That's why I don't get too excited any more about the Fourth. The U.S. has lost its brilliance in the light of the Son. And that's true of pretty much everything in my life nowadays. The more Jesus draws us into His light, the less attractive all the pomp and circumstance of the world becomes. The more we're filled with the light of Christ, the less impressive all the glitter and pom-pom waving is. Yep, the U.S. is light. But only because the world's so dark. You step into the Son-light and all those other lights go completely out.

8:59 AM I love this part of the world.

Notice that it includes Ethiopia and India, where 16 Bethel Hillians are serving this month. All praise to God for awakening a heart for the kingdom in our midst.

8:42 AM More from The Jesus Paradigm:

Recently I met deep underground with a group of persecuted believers in a country I cannot name, men and women who have learned that zeal for the Gospel can lead to hazardous consequences. I taught them that an important aspect of love for Christ is the willingness to risk reputation, property, and life itself. I shared with them what Acts and 1 Thessalonians and Philippians teach about suffering: that it is the rule, and not the exception, of Christian living. I held up as examples the Anabaptists, whose willingness to lose their lives for others was so profound that the Anabaptist faith has been characterized as a “theology of martyrdom.” These Dissenters even offered to take the place of imprisoned brothers.

Anabaptism went beyond the Reformation in adding to Luther’s marks of a church (proper preaching and the sacraments) holy living, brotherly love, witnessing, and suffering. For the Anabaptists it was impossible to speak of faith without practicing sacrificial Christian love. According to the Hutterian Peter Walpot, in Protestantism “each looks to his advantage, to his own favor and greed, that he gathers to himself and fills his sack.” Contrariwise, the Anabaptists suffered seizure of goods, lengthy imprisonments, even capital punishment. Why? And why should believers today suffer persecution for the cause of Christ? Simply because believers ought at all times to be prepared to share their possessions, their wealth, all they have, however little it may be, to meet the needs of others. And the greatest need of others will always be the Gospel.

For more on Peter Walpot, go here.

Incidentally, did you notice the sentence: "These Dissenters even offered to take the place of imprisoned brothers." So here's a question we might ask ourselves: Should we only pray for our sister Asia Bibi in a Pakistani prison? Would one of us be willing to ask the government to take her place in prison? The Spirit is beginning to convict me about this.

8:14 AM Budding Greek scholar John Mureiko is not afraid to re-ask old questions about Matthew 1.  Please note that John has also provided the entire text of the Gospel of Matthew, as he puts it, with

no paragraph breaks, chapter numbers, verse numbers, or section headings. It's just one solid block of text. This is ideal for trying to catch the sweep of a text without getting wrapped up in someone else's decision for where a story or passage needed to be broken.

You can access it here.

8:02 AM A few odds and ends on this Fourth of July ...

1) Invasions are always tricky. Things can go wrong. Lee apparently believed that invading Pennsylvania was worth the risk. But things didn't work out in his favor. The outcome of the war was determined by his loss at Gettysburg. Why? Quite simply because his enemy had a never-ending source of men and supplies, while he had few reserves of either.

Which brings me to the question of the day. Why did the South lose the Battle of Gettysburg? The truth lies in a combination of fatal mistakes. And no one, I believe, provides a better explanation than a man who was there. General Isaac Trimble's report is fascinating. Oh, you remember the good general. He was portrayed by Morgan Sheppard in the Turner epoch Gettysburg.

I appreciate Trimble's honesty. Naturally, many want to blame only one man. (That man is usually either Stuart or Longstreet.) But, as General Trimble shows, the blame is more evenly spread than that. His instincts are exactly right. Leaders are not infallible in their judgments, even those as adroit as Lee's lieutenants. Perhaps those of us in the church can draw a lesson from that.

2) Good read by J. D. Greear: How Muslims Come to Faith in Christ. He notes three things:

  • A copy of the Bible is placed in their hands.

  • They see the love in a Christian community.

  • They are visited with a supernatural dream or vision.

This is very good advice. It will help those of us who work with Muslims to move into their world with grace. It's important to recognize, however, that the particular method doesn't matter too much. Expect God to work -- mainly through His Word and through your love. Sew quality seed, and remember: the medium is the message.

3) Everyone's favorite sheriff has died. Andy Griffith's role succeeded largely because of his foil, Barney Fife (Don Knotts) -- my favorite actor in the series. Why?

  • He was nearly always wrong.

  • His was always firing his gun accidently.

  • He was full of aplomb.

In other words, the man was a dork. So much like me, I guess.

Years ago I drew his picture. It hangs on my office wall. This is how I usually feel come Friday.

4) Yesterday I referred to pastor James Boice. He died at the age of 61 from liver cancer. Here's how he announced his terminal illness to his congregation (pdf). If you read nothing else today, please read his brief message. It will greatly bless and challenge you.

Tuesday, July 3

9:43 AM Looking ahead: Mom and dad arrive on Thursday ... Becky's siblings begin arriving on Friday for the family reunion ... Ethiopian food and anniversary celebration on Friday night ... cookout on Saturday ... family worship on Sunday ... next Monday mom and dad come with us to UNC for Becky's CT-scan ... on Wednesday Team Ethiopia drives to Washington-Dulles ... Thursday's the day to depart for Addis on Ethiopian Airlines. Right now we are madly running through our list of things to do. Mine includes: finish curtain rods, take sacks to packing barn, place rat poison in barns, make the Renn Room bed, mop Maple Ridge floors and steps, recaulk my bathroom sink, bathe Galana (the Glass's dog), get croquet set from tobacco barn, send a birthday card to a soon-to-be 6 year old, return shampooer to Food Lion, and be a general Go-fer for Becky. I get tired just thinking about it.

9:34 AM Brother Jeff has some good thoughts about devotionals

There aren’t many people who can get to the truth of a foundational matter in such a concise and profound way as Oswald Chambers. He is always pointing to Christ. I think he was also ahead of his time in what I call ‘real spiritual psychology’, similar to Martin Lloyd-Jones.

Personally, I don't read daily devotionals. Maybe I should start.

9:30 AM Quote of the day:

For Christians who live in America we must always keep in mind that God has placed us in this land to reach Americans for Christ, making disciples here as well as elsewhere, just as He placed Christians under the rule of Caesar, of Hitler and Churchill, of Davis and Lincoln. Our purpose is not to serve America as Christians but to serve Christ in America even and perhaps especially when that means being unpopular or living at odds with the culture of this land.

Read The Flag Fetish.

9:24 AM My friend Mark Stevens has just published a blog post that I think is excellent. It's called Have Ph.D.? Can't Get a Job? This is healthy talk and needs to be encouraged. In effect, each of us must obey the Spirit's leading in terms of our vocation. To insist that everyone with a scholarly bent pursue fulltime teaching in academia is a crazy perversion. We can't afford that attitude any longer. You know what really bugs me, guys and gals? It's referring to our pastors as preachers. That's not how the New Testament describes them. Ephesians 4:11 refers to "pastor-teachers," and 1 Timothy 3:2 requires overseers to be "able to teach." Some of you have asked me privately: Did you ever consider pastoring? No, I never did, but every ounce of common sense tells me that some of our best pastors are those with doctorates in biblical studies. John Piper is an excellent example (D. Theol., Munich), though my generation probably thinks more of James Montgomery Boice, former pastor of the Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philly -- a Basel D. Theol., I might add.

There's one other thing I need to say, however. If you do earn a doctorate in theology, opportunities for you to teach overseas abound. It is worth contemplating using your doctorate to serve the underserved in the Majority World because, frankly, the needs there are far greater.

Mark's post is a good reminder that not everything in life goes exactly how we planned it. That's often a good thing. Mark's scholarly bent, his interest in the biblical languages, his love for the study -- God can and will use all of these for the greater good of the Body of Christ. How is it that in our seminaries we've done so poorly at affirming the scholarly side of pastoring? We've been pathetic at letting our pastoral students know who they are. They are teachers of God's Word. Call them preachers if you like, but that doesn't change the reality.

P.S. Speaking of balancing academics with ministry, you can keep up with the musings of Jacob Cerone at his blog. He's one of my Th.M. students who is eager to place his learning at the disposal of the local church.

Monday, July 2

8:25 PM As you know, this week the nation is commemorating the 149 anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, fought July 1-3. There's good news and bad news on the Civil War front. The good news is that the 150th anniversary reenactment is already being organized. It should be the largest Gettysburg event in history (other than the actual battle). The bad news is that it will probably cost you an arm and a leg to attend (in Federal dollars, of course). I've done a good bit of reenacting in my time. It's an enjoyable hobby and probably the closest thing to real battle I'll ever get.

Occasionally you're called upon to "die." (My unit fought in the famous "Sunken Road" during the 140th anniversary of the Battle of Sharpsburg/Antietam. We were wiped out by the Federals.) Whenever I'm called upon to take that step, I have a rule: run out of ammo first, and then find a shady tree. Of course, all this is only playing bang-bang. (Think of a war between the Jetsons and the Flintstones.) It is by no means a waste of time, however. Iraq and Afghanistan are about to be divided by civil war. Didn't they learn anything from the big cockfight we went through? Thomas Friedman once said that there are two kinds of blame. One is the result of self-criticism. The other is an attempt to avoid self-criticism. I pass this on only to encourage you to attend at least one major Civil War reenactment in your lifetime. One thing I love about America is our passion to learn from our past. You will never understand who we are today unless you see who we were yesterday -- Americans bumping up against Americans.

6:11 PM I just love those sixteenth century Anabaptists. They believed in:

  • serving instead of ruling

  • suffering instead of inflicting suffering

  • breaking down walls instead of isolationism

  • biblical authority instead of ecclesiastical tradition

  • brotherhood instead of hierarchy

  • the towel instead of the sword

  • the headship of Christ instead of that of any pastor

  • the way of peace instead of “just war”

  • the church as a living organism instead of as a human institution

  • the reign of God instead of a political kingdom

  • the catholicity of the true church instead of sectarianism

  • the power of suffering instead of the cult of power

  • the Bible as a book of the church instead of as a book of scholars

  • loyalty to their heavenly citizenship instead of to the principalities and powers

  • Spirit-orientation instead of forced structures of church life

  • being a “light to the nations” instead of a Christian enclave

  • knowing Christ instead of merely knowing about Him

  • faith that works (in both senses) instead of dead orthodoxy

  • effectual grace as a living reality instead of as a theological dogma

  • every-member ministry instead of clergyism

  • baptism into Christ instead of baptism into a denomination

  • a unity that is lived instead of a unity that is merely extolled

  • welcoming the despised and marginalized instead of ignoring them

  • a hermeneutic of obedience instead of a hermeneutic of knowledge

  • individual conscience instead of theological conformity

  • volunteerism instead of professionalism

  • allegiance to Christ instead of allegiance to the state

This the way of Jesus, the ultimate in downward mobility.

12:52 PM My father in law just sent along these pictures of the "Husband of the Year Award" recipients.

I've added one:

Here are three of our stalwart missionaries standing idly by while their Ethiopian friends are fixing a flat on the bus. Can you believe it? I think I'll use this picture in our next orientation.

(Just kiddin'. In Ethiopian culture it's shameful to ask visitors to do anything. They are honored guests. Our guys wanted to help! Of course, my excuse was, "Hey, I'm the photographer!")

12:45 PM Two million people are still without power in Virginia due to last weekend's storm. It's one storm system we'll never forget. This photo comes from the BBC website.

Thankfully, there was only minimal damage in our area, but the chain saw will see some work this afternoon.

10:33 AM Read Ten Tips on Solving Mysterious Bible Passages from Sherlock Holmes by Eric McKiddie of Wheaton's College Church (where Becky's uncle, Dexter McKlenney, used to pastor). Not that's some fun reading!

In a passage from my second most favorite Sherlock Holmes story,"A Study in Scarlet," Holmes makes this astute observation about knowledge:

I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilled workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.

I love this part: "It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent." This is one reason why I've stopped learning any more foreign languages. My attic is just plain filled to the brim. If I did try to add Amharic to my little brain, I tell Nigusse, another language would slip out the other side. Holmes used only the most necessary tools for his job. Alas! What are they?

8:30 AM Becky and Nigusse just walked out the door to get her blood work done in South Boston. As she left she called out, "Honey, the dog food has ants in it." Now, my guess is that this was not given for my information. It was given for my transformation. She didn't have to add, "And will you please take care of the problem?"

Jesus said, "The fields are white unto harvest." That little factlet was not given for our information but for our transformation. Jesus didn't need to add, "So please get out there and begin harvesting." It's a given that we're going.

8:11 AM John Piper has been reflecting on the republication of his doctoral dissertation -- 40 years later. Much of his post has to do with what he calls "enemy-love." Satan has laid a million little traps to keep us from being effective for Christ, and I suppose one of the subtlest of them is a kind of super-patriotism that breeds love of country and hatred of enemies. If we were submitting our lives to the will of Christ and His command to "love your enemies," how would our lives be different?

P. S. Just for fun:

The young Münchner:

The young Basler:

8:06 AM My friend Craig Bennett makes a good point about Christian diversity here. Peter spoke of Christians as stones comprising a vast edifice. Each stone is unique and individual, but together they form a single building. I like this metaphor. The construction we're doing at our ministry house is a reminder to me of just how diverse the components of a house are. That's why so many skills are needed in construction work. (Skills I mostly do not have, by the way.) Peter sees us as individual parts in a great house. Christians not only form the building, we are "put together" to carry out the purpose for which the building is being erected. In the case of Maple Ridge, that purpose is ministry to those who need temporary housing. In the case of the church, that purpose is "to offer sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." The obvious point is that we should never be ashamed of diversity within the Building of Christ. Some people are perfectly happy to be identified with a particular denomination or theological school of thought but are embarrassed at being identified in a personal way with other Christians with whom they might disagree ecclesiologically or soterologically. Today, God is calling out an army of Americans who are dissatisfied with lukewarm, self-centered, plastic Christianity. They not only tolerate diversity within the Building, they celebrate it. What a glorious freedom from the yokes fashioned by men, organizations, and the world. If the soldiers of this world can die for such petty political causes as individual liberty and territorial gain, isn't cooperation in the cause of the Gospel the least we can offer to the Savior of the World?

By the way, the inter-denominational cooperation among Christians in Ethiopia is phenomenal. It is always quite freshening for this corn fed country Baptist to witness.

Sunday, July 1

9:42 PM Not long ago I asked the Lord to give me the gift of high expectations for my local church. He can be trusted! He absolutely can change us from the inside out! The Hill is so blessed. We are beginning to plumb the depths of what it means to be the church of God. A church truly becomes the church when it starts fulfilling God's original purpose for it, and that is loving God and loving others. "Go and bring forth fruit," is our watchword. Out of our commitment to each other flows our commitment to the world. This essentially was brother Chris's message in Sunday School class as we discussed Phil. 2:5-7. "If you're a Christian and your life is not about other people," said he, "there's something wrong with your love." If Jesus could stoop to pathetic lows to die like a weakling slave, how much more should I be willing to reach and reach and reach a lost world? In the main service, brother Jason spoke from John 20:19-23 (the Johannine "Great Commission"), beginning with two outstanding quotes:

  • "Go, send, or disobey" (John Piper).

  • "Any church that is not seriously involved in fulfilling the Great Commission has forfeited its biblical right to exist" (Oswald Chambers).

So true! Today we commissioned 21 individuals, young and old, who will be traveling during the month of July to represent the Lord Jesus in India (9 of us), Ethiopia (7 of us), and Kentucky (5 of us). "No one has the right to hear the Gospel twice," said Jason, again quoting Oswald Chambers, "while there remains someone who has not heard it once." God is calling every Christian to learn the lesson of service to a world in need. Throughout the morning, our hearts were full of songs of worship and praise, transforming our meeting into a powerful time of missionary revival. I am so honored and thrilled and humbled to belong a church that's on the go for King Jesus. I know many of you can say that of your own local church as well. Here's our great-looking India team:

They will be joined by Joel Brasher, our former associate pastor who now serves at Clement Baptist Church. In the following photo the church is commissioning our "apostles."

Finally, never say that an old dog can't learn new tricks. We now have biblical elders -- an evidence of the grace of God at work in our midst.

To Him be all the praise and glory!

8:24 AM I'm blown away by Andy Bowden's latest blog post: Today I say goodbye to my best friend. So sad. I too made the mistake of getting hooked on dogs several years ago. A dog introduces love, friendship, and humor into your life. And sorrow at the inevitable parting. Even if you are not a confirmed dog lover, Andy's post is worth reading. By the way, I imagine that Andy could have kept his dog had he decided to do his doctorate stateside rather than in Germany. I don't know that for a fact; it's just a hunch. I do know this: Andy's time in Munich will be well worth whatever sacrifices he makes in the short term. Studying in another culture is like getting two educations for the price of one. This is especially true when you have to speak a foreign language. I have nothing but the greatest respect for Andy. He has chosen a difficult path. So did I when I decided to do my doctorate in Basel. I encourage budding doctoral students to take the most difficult and challenging path. You'll be better off for it. Let your doctoral studies stretch you to the max, whether you do them here or abroad.

On a lighter note, I see that the World's Ugliest Dog has been crowned in Petaluma, CA. It's name is Mugly.

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