June 2008 Blog Archives
Monday, June 30
5:06 PM Our project du jour was to turn the shed roof of this outbuilding into a gable. We finished about half of the project today. Nate got the tin off, and I took the nails out of the used rafters and joists. After 3 and a half hours I was done in. It was the humidity. I feel much better now after an hour's nap. We'll finish the job on Wednesday, Lord willing. Today and tomorrow Nate and Jessie are helping out at the local Christian camp. Nate and Jessie are lots of fun to be around, but they are also sticklers for politeness and manners, not to mention accomplishing the camp's spiritual goals before playing. One year Nathan required all of his boys to complete their memory verses before eating. They loved him for it! Et moi? My goal is to write, write, write. Them juices is really flowin'.
10:36 AM Nathan just called and asked if I'd help him with a building project he's got working at a neighbor's farm. His normal sidekick is enjoying a bum foot, so he's back to relying on the B-team. Should be fun, though the heat today is oppressive. Becky and our guests just went for a long trek who knows where -- 123 acres is a big place. Hope they don't get lost. At least there aren't any hyenas on our farm.
10:30 AM A pastor in North Carolina sent along this email:
The check was for $230.07. This amount will buy almost 50 Bibles for Ethiopian children. What amazing generosity! And what a good way to do VBS -- giving to mission causes!
10:23 AM Last night the Lord of the harvest sent along a nice, long, soaking rain. God is so gracious to us.
10:17 AM Aussie John (of Caesura fame) emailed me to say that an Australian citizen who will be competing in the Beijing games hails originally from Ethiopia. His name is Abebe Fekadu, and his story is amazing. He is called "handicapped." Hardly. My college roommate for 4 years was a blind and partially deaf Indian from the jungles of Brazil. I roomed with him out of pity, thinking he could use my help. Boy was I wrong. Rubens put me to shame in every way. He ended up going on to get a masters degree in Romance Languages and Linguistics from UCLA and today is a world class pianist. Inspirational, is all I can say.
Sunday, June 29
8:48 PM For the past several days I have had very little deep communion with God (at least not as deep as usual), and have felt somewhat spiritually and physically weak. It was therefore a great joy for me to spend the day with Christian brothers and sisters who were an encouragement to me. Becky and I attended Chris Jacob's Sunday School class at Bethel Hill, which was a pure delight in every way, not least in that he had his own children in class with him and taught us solely from the New Testament rather than from the teacher's quarterly. Many have been benefited from his instruction, but none more than me.
After the morning service (in which the children all sat with their parents -- what a blessing to see!) it was off to Mary Jacob's house for Nate and Jessie's wedding shower, where, after a marvelous supper, they received some wonderful gifts, including this pancake maker...
...and this quilt Miss Mary had made herself. Though 81 years young, Mary is committed to returning with us to Burji this fall "if the Lord wants me to go."
A highlight for me personally was to hear Nathan rev up the church organ after the wedding shower. Here he is playing one of my all-time favorite organ pieces, the Toccata by Widor. Nate is truly one of a kind. How many farmers do you know who can go from mucking horse manure to playing a concert organ? Thanks, son -- that was a real blessing to your dear old dad!
I was reminded today that my first order of business in life is attending every day to my fellowship with God rather than serving the Lord. If I try and encourage other believers without myself being nourished on the Lord's Word, I find that my work is done in the wrong spirit and thus done in vain. And not just reading the Word but pondering it so that it percolates in my soul like a good cup of Kona Coffee. Still, I am cheerful tonight because the Lord has again sustained me through another day, and a very special day at that!
8:47 AM Alan Knox's mention of "church growth specialists" at his blog today made me think of this great quote on missions:
7:38 AM Parkinson's Law states that social organizations tend to grow ever bigger and, as they do, consume an unnecessary and disproportionate part of the total resources upon themselves. People have asked Becky and me when we are going to "incorporate," or at least "name" our work in Ethiopia. We don't think either step is necessary to serve the Lord effectively. In all frankness, we prefer being just a simple mom-and-pop (literally!) ministry, so that people know that every penny sent to us goes to where the needs are, not to pay for our expenses or "overhead." If we ask, "What was the missionary strategy of the early church?" we will see that it did not establish mammoth, costly missions organizations to direct the work. Finances were not diverted to pay the salaries of the mission bureaucracy. No. Men and women simply obeyed the Holy Spirit and went through the doors the Lord opened. They preached the Gospel, gained converts, and gathered them into churches. Local churches and individuals were the agency of church planting, not paramission organizations.
Let me ask you a question: How many people in our congregations will ever attend an institution of Christian higher education? How many will be appointed as "career missionaries"? If every Kingdom Hall can become an effective training station for the Jehovah's Witnesses, why can't the average local church?
7:28 AM Charley Reese's latest column (America Is the Rogue Nation) reminded me of this statement I read last night in Matthew Rondeau's thesis:
7:08 AM This morning Becky and I are attending Bethel Hill Baptist Church while Nathan and Jessie are at Hebron Church, a small wood frame meeting house where Nate has begun teaching on Sundays, playing piano, and leading music. Needless to say, the people love him and Jessie. Afterwards we're meeting at Miss Mary's house for the shower.
7:04 AM From my trip diary # 7:
Saturday, June 28
7:04 PM Tonight we're having Chinese food for supper. Guess who the cook is? Shiver me timbers! And tomorrow will be a very special day. Nathan and Jessica are having a wedding shower in Roxboro with some very good friends of ours. By the way, if you've missed seeing pictures of Jessie it's because she's been laid up with a sore foot and is on strict bed rest -- well, bed rest -- well, rest -- well, she's been on her feet way too much. We'll all rooting for her to get back to normal real soon!
6:54 PM Guess what we did today? Visited the Rondeaus! When we arrived we found the boys frolicking in the pool Matthew had set up. Perfect day for it too.
Then it was time for lunch. Matt and Liz had prepared delicious barbeque sandwiches with beans and fresh slaw. And to think only a week ago I was eating injera b'wat!
Matt and Liz also had a very special present for Mama B and Papa B -- Matt's masters thesis! The title? "An Exegesis of Romans 13:1-5 with Special Emphasis upon the Criterion of Just Authority in Jus ad Bellum." Yikes! That's a mouthful!
Much to my great surprise, yours truly was mentioned on the Dedication page. Thank you so much Matthew -- I am truly honored!
The thesis opens with an abstract, which contains these words:
If I understand Matt correctly, he is arguing that Romans 13 distinguishes between the sword-wielding conduct of governing "authorities" and the non-violent love of the Christian. Yet it is clear that Luther's two-realms theology is not in view -- a personal ethic on the one hand, and a political ethic on the other. Paul's' point was simply: "You Christians, distinguished as you are from the Romans state over you that bears the sword, should be subject to it. Remember, however, that love does no wrong to a neighbor." I have urged Matthew to publish a summary of his argument in a major journal; I think he will have little or no difficulty in doing this.
So, heartiest congratulations, Matthew, on a job well done!!
10:17 AM Need to read something encouraging from a Christian brother today? Go here -- a great website.
9:59 AM Over at LRC, Walter Block is on his soap box again, but this time I agree totally with him. If you're seeking a position in academia, do not despair -- no matter what all the educational "experts" tell you. There are jobs aplenty, and they will only increase as professors retire or are denied tenure. That's why I enjoy linking to job openings in biblical studies so frequently. The key is having a marketable degree, one from a (prestigious) university where you studied under someone who has published widely in his or her field. Do NOT work with someone whose one and only publication was their dissertation. And be sure to get to know your major professor's writings (and, if you're studying abroad, his or her attitude toward Americans, who are not too popular these days in Europe) before applying. Set your sights high; you'll never reach higher. One last thought and then I'll get off my soap box: Publish everything you write. Your professor (or your spouse) might tell you, "You're not accomplished enough to publish anything, let alone a journal article," but make sure you ignore all such advice. My doctoral students are already publishing their seminar papers, and well they should -- if it's worth writing, it's worth other people reading.
9:32 AM I loved the comments section in this entry. Here's my favorite part:
7:45 AM From my trip diary # 6:
Well, here are the pix everyone has been waiting for!
7:15 AM Have you see the Modern Church Translation yet? Here's a sampler (2 Tim. 3:16-17):
Isn't this great? All I can say is, "Ouch!" You can read more here.
Friday, June 27
6:34 PM This PBS series on the church in China is an absolute must-see. The unofficial church continues to be persecuted, while the state church alone is tolerated. Apparently one can be a Christian in China only as long as one is a “good Chinese.” Undivided allegiance to Jesus is unacceptable. Hitler understood this as well: “One is either a good German or a good Christian. It is impossible to be both at the same time.” The parallels to American nationalism are only too obvious to me. Disciples do not make “good” Americans – at least not in the eyes of the state.
6:30 PM Hendrickson Publishers just sent me a complimentary copy of Harold Greenlee’s new book, The Text of the New Testament, for which I was pleased to write a blurb for the cover. It has a kind of direct, uncluttered quality I enjoy in books of this nature. My thanks to Hendrickson for sending it to me! Here’s a link to the book at the publisher’s website.
6:19 PM (Warning: Dumb joke ahead.) Just drove in. What a great day it's been! First off, my secretary -- who, by the way, is the world's greatest assistant (have a wonderful week off, Miss Phyllis!) -- prepared Kona Coffee for me this morning. She knows I was hatched and raised in Hawaii and occasionally enjoys reminding me of that fact. Then on the drive home from Wake Forest this afternoon the radio played my all-time favorite series theme song: "Hawaii 5-O." I well recall playing this awesome song in high school band -- Kailua High versus Waianae or Punahoe, or some other longtime rivalry -- and our band was always the best, even if our football team wasn't. The odd thing is that even though I spent 18 years of my life in Hawaii, the only Hawaiian I can remember is "Aloha" and "Book 'em, Danno!" (*Rim shot*; I told you it was dumb.)
Right now Becky Lynn is in the cocina preparing comida mexicana for yours truly and our guests from Ukraine (they used to live in Southern California, where Mexican food is Mexican food). As for tonight, I have promised myself not to do any writing but simply to rest. I feel like a brain surgeon who just performed at least 8 major operations, that's how many major tasks I had to get done at the office today. But from the Kona Coffee to "the wave" I had a thoroughly enjoyable day, thanks to my wonderful Jesus, who walked and talked with me each step of the way. Iesus, mahalo a nui loa!
6:55 AM Off to the seminary to get some editing and writing done and to check my campus mail. Students, if you need to see me for any reason, my door is open.
6:50 AM Yesterday I was going to Nathan's house when I saw him running around like a maniac swinging some object at the chickens who had begun to pick at his grape vines. Nate, if you're reading this, I have one question: Are you and Jessie going to cook up some "Picking Chicken" for supper soon?
Thursday, June 26
8:44 PM The rain has just begun to fall at the farm. As usual, the Lord's timing was perfect, as we just got up today's hay.
Retreating with us all week at Bradford Hall is the Mosse family, on home assignment from Ukraine. Here Alfie is tossing his first scoop of horse manure. He called it "skubala" -- the Greek word for dung. (Alfie had Greek with me many years ago in California, but please don't blame me.)
Alfie had pretty good form, but I thought his son Joseph won the price for the classiest thrower. "You want me to toss poo?" was his response when he told him what our exciting afternoon pastime would be.
We managed to get up a couple hundred bales today. Well, 208, to be exact. (Joseph also was our bale counter, numbering them in fluent Russian.)
Who knows what other surprises we have in store for our fine furloughing friends from afar? By the way, the Mosses have a website, as do all good missionaries.
8:35 AM The latest addition to our home page is called As Long As.
7:37 AM From my trip diary # 5:
6:58 AM Monergism has just published my essay on the literature structure of 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Just click on "Visit This Link" to download it (.pdf). The article originally appeared in The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. I wrote the essay in order to encourage an inductive approach to outlining a New Testament book. Give it a try and see what you think.
6:52 AM Yesterday evening Nathan stopped by to mow our front lawn. Today, in 100 degree weather, we are baling the Hidden Valley, which he cut a few days ago. While I was gone, Becky helped Nathan and Jessie get up about 1,600 bales. Only the Lord knows whether we'll have a second cutting this year. It all depends on the rain. I enjoy farming and miss it greatly when I'm gone. Milton Friedman wrote in Free to Choose, "The fecundity of freedom [in America] is demonstrated most dramatically and clearly in agriculture." The welfare and paternal state notwithstanding, farming still is great fun -- and hard work.
6:42 AM I just read this excellent Father's Day message on the myth of adolescence. Well done, Justin!
6:36 AM Commerce is beginning to open doors into North Korea, one place I would like to visit some day. I've already visited the ROK 6 times while lecturing in various evangelical seminaries there.
6:33 AM I see the Horace Manning of Germany's educational system continues. Mann, you will recall, was the American educator who in the 1840s argued that education was so important that government had a duty to provide it to every child. So successful was he that few today question the view that education is a responsibility of the state. State control of education rapidly spread to France and Britain. Only an unbridled faith in the virtues of government can explain the current persecution of homeschoolers in Germany.
6:22 AM From my trip diary # 4:
Wednesday, June 25
7:57 AM Greek students! Check out the Logos New Testament Textual Criticism Collection. I'm very glad to see it includes Jack Finegan's Encountering New Testament Manuscripts, a handy step-by step, do it yourself inductive guide that I used way back in my in seminary days. It's still a very useful book.
7:52 AM Speaking of Deutsch, Theological German has a link to this excellent site with German Bibles, along with texts in the biblical languages. If you haven't studied German yet you should. For lots of reasons.
7:45 AM From my trip dairy # 3:
Tuesday, June 24
9:37 PM Becky and I had a great time with Nathan and Jessie tonight looking at my Ethiopian slides. Jessie baked some delicious cinnamon bread that we devoured in short order. She also tells us that Duck and Mary are now in their crock pot a stewin'. Nathan says the ducks were picking in the garden too much and thus met their fateful end. When I asked him what they are calling their concoction, he said, "Picking Duck." Too funny!
6:10 PM From my trip diary # 2:
Here are a few pix of my trip out to West Gortancho. We had to take a detour after encountering this bridge that had collapsed a few days earlier.
The roads in Ethiopia are rarely used by vehicles of the mechanical kind. One simple waits patiently for the herds to part like the Red Sea before proceeding.
The West Gortancho meeting house. This is one of several church buildings that Becky and I have constructed in Alaba using funds donated by American believers. About 50 people meet here on Sundays. And 8 of their children are currently doing the Bible Memory Program that Becky and I have set up (after memorizing 9 passages of Scripture they receive their very own Amharic Bible).
Tadessa was busy in his fields when I arrived. I hated to disturb his work (I am a farmer myself), but he was eager to share his testimony with me.
A study in contrasts.
This is Tadessa's family and the hut where they live. Behind are his corn fields.
"Make sure you honor people like Epaphroditus highly. He risked his life and almost died for the work of Christ in order to make up for the help you couldn't give me" (Phil. 2:29-30). Please pray for the flock of God in West Gortancho, Alaba, Ethiopia, and their spiritual shepherd, my friend Tadessa.
10:14 AM You can look for an interview with Constitution Party presidential candidate Chuck Baldwin to appear here shortly. For Chuck's official website, go here.
10:08 AM Special appreciation to the Bart family for the link to DBO. I am truly honored. Thank you, Jon and Jen!
6:58 AM From my trip diary #1:
6:46 AM Today I'm starting a series of entries from my trip diary. It will give you a brief glimpse of a very ordinary man who trusts a very unordinary God. Rather than going day by day I'll pick my entries randomly, just to keep things interesting. On my trip I found myself committing all of my little concerns to the Lord, believing that He would take them and direct them according to His boundless love and absolute omniscience. He did not always answer my prayers as I thought He should! But His grace overruled. So, are you ready for a trip to Ethiopia?
6:35 AM Last night Nate and Jess invited us over to their home for popcorn after supper. They've completed their upstairs bedroom. I love the wainscoting, the paneling, the mantle, the flooring -- everything!
Nate also found this wood splitter in Raleigh. He and Jessie heat their home only with wood. It is a custom-made contraption and looks like it can really do the job!
6:25 AM Alpha and Omega ministries continue its overview of New Testament textual criticism here. Excellent!
6:22 AM Good morning, fellow bloggers everywhere! I had a good night's rest and am raring to get some typing done on my latest manuscript. But first, to all of your emails. I hope to get caught up today. In my devotions I'm re-reading the book of 2 Corinthians. I'm keeping a diary so be forewarned: I may share some of my thoughts with you along the way.
Monday, June 23
7:03 PM A couple of "Looks."
1) Look at what Becky started harvesting while I was in Africa. Not only that, we had a nice rain shower a few minutes ago. (It has been very dry in southern Virginia.) Praise God from whom ALL blessings flow!
2) Look who joined us for supper this fine evening. Becky cooked up a delicious roast with mashed potatoes and veggies and a salad on the side. Just what the doctor ordered after living on injera and wat for the past 4 weeks.
3) Finally, look at what Nate and Jessie got from Tilahun, Aberash, and Baby Nathan in Dilla. Did Aberash knit these herself? We think probably so. Aren't they beautiful?
Can you tell I'm glad to be back home?!
5:15 PM I’M HOME!!! Not 100 percent fit yet, but a whole lot better than I was two days ago. Thanks for your prayers.
Funny thing is, I have come to feel happy and at home in most any culture and country. I have become less and less dependent on one place (even Bradford Hall), one culture, one style of living. In our world, where distances are utterly insignificant (Ethiopia is only 17 hours from Virginia), I wonder if the ability to be in so many places so quickly is an invitation to be more rooted in the kingdom and less in the place in which we happen to be at any particular moment.
Did I miss Becky? Are you kidding! This comes from my trip diary:
During this trip I have spent a great deal of time with people whom Jesus said He specially loved – the poor. But poverty takes many forms. America is a nation of appalling poverty as seen in our mania for the creature comforts of life, our militarism, our rebellion against moral standards, our corruption in high places, and our hopeless addiction to churchianity. We have even reduced “mission work” to fulltime Christian workers. We have forgotten that the New Testament doctrine of the priesthood of all believers is our greatest single hope for fulfilling Christ’s commission to “Go to all nations everywhere and make them My disciples.”
On this trip I emphasized four basic truths: (1) All ministry centers in and derives from Jesus Christ, who is the model minister and the ultimate sacrificial servant; (2) the entire Christian community must be active in ministry; (3) all ministry is given by God and is exercised through the spontaneous use of spiritual gifts; and (4) Christ’s continuing mission on earth can only be accomplished by the full participation of believers who are consciously the Body of Christ.
Much has happened in the past 4 weeks. My mind whirlwinds with memories. In the coming days, drawing upon my trip diary, I hope to share with you my observations and reflections about the trip. There was nothing charming or romantic about it. Often it was dark agony. It involved following Jesus to completely unknown places. It was good to be there, even though it was hard. Like Abraham of old, my faith was tested every step of the way. Work in Ethiopia is not a smooth operation in which efficiency and control are priorities. But the slow and inefficient way of life in Africa has taught me something new about God’s love that has remained unknown to me so far. I learned many other lessons as well.
So, how to summarize my trip? I think something I once read by Spurgeon says it perfectly. In his day all of London’s streetlights had to be lit individually. It is to this practice that Spurgeon is referring in the following: