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June 2010 Blog Archives

Sunday, June 13

6:28 PM Quote of the day (George W. Peters):

God is a God of missions. He wills missions. He commands missions. He demands missions. He made missions possible through His Son. He made missions actual in sending the Holy Spirit.


6:21 PM Becky's been blogging again. As usual, great stuff.

6:18 PM A big Sunday shout out to Nicholas and Joyce Muteti of Rollesville Baptist Church in Wake Forest. Nicholas is a former student of mine and has been shepherding at Rollesville for over a decade now.

I was privileged to speak during their annual "Homecoming" service this morning. The congregation was formed in 1859. Their current building (constructed in the early 1900s) is now a historical landmark.

I could tell at once that I would love this congregation. Why can't all of our churches be as ethnically diverse as this one!

If anything we Baptists know how to do well, it's eat.

Thank you, my brothers and sisters, for your warm welcome. Let's keep the Mutetis in prayer this week as they return to their native country of Kenya (for the first time in 16 years) to help establish a new church plant among the Massai.

Saturday, June 12

9:47 PM Want to play around a bit with the Amharic language of Ethiopia? Check out this delightful site. Some great links too.

9:22 PM Quote of the day #4 (Carl F. H. Henry):

The gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.

7:15 PM I see that Messiah Baptist Church's newest tradition is gathering on the beach. Reminds me of my Jesus Freak days when we used to "go to church" at the Hilton Hawaiian Village on Sunday mornings. There's nothing quite like surfing for a couple of hours, paddling in, gathering with the Body, then paddling back out again. The services were sponsored by the Waikiki Beach Chaplaincy. Those were the days.

6:49 PM Excited and honored to be speaking in Wake Forest tomorrow morning. Then it's 2 Ph.D. orals on Monday before flying to Orlando early Tuesday. May Jesus be honored in it all.

6:05 PM Quote of the day #3:

If you are a member of an SBC church, watch and pray. If you used to be a member of an SBC church or if you are a Christian and have a negative opinion of denominations, please, pray for us. There is really only one Church. As the SBC we have an incredible network of churches. We have deep pockets of resources. Therefore we have enormous accountability. It’s time to quit focusing on internal politics and time to focus our internal resources on an external world that is lost.

Read Why I Am Going To Attend My First Southern Baptist Convention.

5:52 PM Quote of the day #2:

As we have a high old time this Christmas may we who know Christ hear the cry of the damned as they hurtle headlong into the Christless night without ever a chance. May we be moved with compassion as our Lord was. May we shed tears of repentance for these we have failed to bring out of darkness. Beyond the smiling scenes of Bethlehem may we see the crushing agony of Golgotha.

-- Nate Saint, two weeks before he was martyred by the Auca Indians.

1:46 PM Quote of the day (Eric Carpenter):

In humility and complete dependence upon the power of the Holy Spirit, we must be willing to let scripture challenge any beliefs, practices, and traditions we have. This can be painful. It can be very humbling.

Read Mere Traditianity.

1:34 PM More good news! I just finished writing the new postscript to Why Four Gospels? All I have to do now is type it up. Good feeling.

1:22 PM Good news! I've just added a new link to our sidebar: Amharic Essays. Special thanks to Nigussie Denano (below right) for translating these essays for us. Nigu, you are boop amaaazing!

Be sure to tell all of your Ethiopian friends about it.

12:11 PM I am deeply moved by the story of Abby Sunderland -- her courage, and the courage of the crew of the French fishing vessel that saved her life.

The vessel's captain was washed overboard in the rescue effort but later was "fished out of the water." A spiritual application? Again, the teenagers in our churches are not averse to humongous challenges and even risk-taking for a cause they deem worthwhile. Note this statement in a recent Telegraph article on Abby's rescue:

Many criticised her parents for allowing her to sail off alone in a small boat, knowing it would be tossed about for 30 or more hours at a time by the giant waves that rake the southern hemisphere's oceans this time of year.

Her parents have dismissed the criticisms as symptomatic of modern, risk-averse society, saying a teenager could just as easily die while driving a car.

Mom and dad Sunderland, I applaud you. Our teenagers are capable of doing adult kinds of things -- precisely because they are young adults. John writes about them when he says, "I am writing to you, young people, because you are strong, because the Word of God abides in you, and because you have overcome the world." The teenage years ought to be the best years of our lives -- and they can be if they are invested in things that last for eternity.

I am also awed by the courage of the crew of that French fishing vessel. Sounds like missions to me: you risk your life to save another person, no matter what their nationality might be. The great old hymn by Philip Bliss puts it this way:

Brightly beams our Father’s mercy,
From His lighthouse evermore,
But to us He gives the keeping
Of the lights along the shore.

Let the lower lights be burning!
Send a gleam across the wave!
Some poor struggling, fainting seaman
You may rescue, you may save.

Dark the night of sin has settled,
Loud the angry billows roar;
Eager eyes are watching, longing,
For the lights along the shore.

Trim your feeble lamp, my brother;
Some poor sailor, tempest-tossed,
Trying now to make the harbor,
In the darkness may be lost.

I urge all of us to stop chasing our own ambitions, dreams, and plans and get busy with saving the lost seaman whom the Lord puts in our path. Attending missionary conferences won't get the job done. The work remains undone because we don't have men and women, including young men and young women, with servant hearts who will lose their personal identities in getting the work done and the commission fulfilled.

Friday, June 11

4:51 PM Off to our local Chinese restaurant to celebrate Nolan's birthday.

4:48 PM Quote of the day (Hudson Taylor):

If I had a thousand lives, I'd give them all for China.

I feel the same way about Ethiopia.

4:44 PM Arthur Sido reminds us that shepherds (i.e., pastors) are still sheep and part of the flock.

My point is that shepherding can only be correctly understood when we recognize Jesus as the Shepherd and ourselves, even the most famous pastors, as sheep. We may perform some shepherding functions but when we lose sight of Christ as the Shepherd and the only Shepherd of the church, we get into trouble.

Has this great truth an implication for the titles we use in our churches? If Jesus is in fact THE Chief Shepherd (Senior Pastor), isn't it an affront to Him to assume that title for ourselves? ("Lead Pastor" carries the same connotation in my thinking.) Why not be content to recede into a group of non-hierarchical elders? Do we really need to be so status conscious?

By the way, when I teach about leadership (whether in Ethiopia or in other places) I often teach from John 10. So much to learn from the Good Shepherd about shepherding!

1:36 PM The latest issue of CT features Ed Stetzer on denominations. Ed's peroration:

To paraphrase Churchill's comments about democracy: Denominations are the worst way to cooperate—except for all the others. They are riddled with weak, ineffective, and arrogant leadership, prone to navel-gazing, and often move more slowly than they should. But these aspects are products of human fallibility and sin. Every time churches work together, ego, failure, and inefficiency will arise. And when they don't work together, ego, failure, and inefficiency will arise. People, not denominations, are the source.

Denominations at their best are not places to get something but places to give and to serve. Our gifts, passions, and experience have greater influence through a worldwide denominational network. Through a denomination, we can provide resources to people we will never meet, reach places we will never go, and preach the gospel to lost souls who are beyond our personal reach. We can find what we need and give as much as we want—because the key to cooperation is to both give and receive.

Food for thought, for sure. I think I'd also emphasize the need for local churches to work directly with other local churches (regardless of their denomination)  in kingdom work, with most (if not all) of the work being done by volunteers. This would cut out (or reduce) the administrative overhead and bureaucratic bloat that often characterizes large denominations. Returning missions to the local church would, of course, require a return to every-member ministry and fly in the face of the professionalization of ministry that has become the backbone of the modern missionary enterprise.

12:40 PM Read German sermons here.

12:28 PM The Unreached People of the Day are the Aceh of Indonesia.

Pop: 3,758,000

Religion: Islam

Percentage of Evangelical Christians: 0.00

Read those stats again. And we don't need a Great Commission Resurgence? Tom Elliff said it like this today:

Some might suggest that the report’s acknowledgement of other “Great Commission” avenues of doing our work will somehow weaken our support of the Cooperative Program. I see, instead, that these recommendations are a fresh call to embrace the Cooperative Program. After all, nothing is to be gained by pretending that we alone have a corner on the Kingdom.

The heart of the Lord Jesus whom I love beats for the lost. Until we Christians have entered that heartbeat, we don't have the strength to pick up our cross and follow Him, regardless of what our denomination might be. Does a passionate commitment to world evangelization seem improbable to you? May I ask you to take a minute and do a spiritual inventory of your life? What are living for? What would you be willing to die for? When was the last time you laid aside your agenda and said, "Here am I, Lord, send me"?

Yes, I am speaking to my beloved colleagues in academia!

10:10 AM The garden needs weeding and the yard needs mowing. I need exercise. What a great combination. 

9:49 AM Bec and I have been praying for some dear friends who are facing an important decision. Oswald Chambers once said: "Never run before God's guidance. If there is the slightest doubt, then He is not guiding. Whenever there is doubt -- don't" (My Utmost for His Highest, Jan. 4). James says it even better: "If you need wisdom -- if you want to know what God wants you to do -- ask him, and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking" (NLT). Scripture clearly teaches us: If your heart is sincerely open to doing ONLY God's will, you will hear His voice. But remember: "His voice is so gentle that it is easy to ignore" (My Utmost, May 13).

9:42 AM Being a person who pleases God has nothing to do with my circumstances, my family, my friends, or my work, but everything to do with how deeply I abide in Christ. 

8:02 AM Born a year ago today:

How I praise God for His goodness in giving us Nolan. Even more exhilarating is the knowledge that God's purposes for us, from the moment He created us, have never changed. I pray that Nolan may come to know God intimately and follow Him in a way that others can taste and see again the presence of Jesus walking and living among them. Praise the Lord for his godly parents. May God's Cause be furthered through you in this dark and dying world. 

Thursday, June 10

8:24 PM Here's a crazy notion. If we took Phil. 2:3-4 seriously and literally, we would have ads for TEDS featuring the benefits of studying at Talbot. Unfortunately, our Christian magazines are full of photographs and statistics designed to show how great we are.

In the world of advertising, the church has become just like the secular world all around us. There is little self-denial. SEBTS is a great place to study, but if you leave Southeastern to study at DTS because you believe this is God's will for your life, I'll be your greatest cheerleader.

When Jesus dramatically washed His disciples' feet, He demonstrated the attitude He expects of His followers throughout all time and in all circumstances.

2:48 PM I'm hoping the theme of next week's SBC convention in Orlando will be humility before God and each other. We must realize that while God really desires us to be shining lights in the world, it is equally important that we are not offering service to God in the power of the flesh. As never before, we need leaders who will not only tell us what a Great Commission Resurgence looks like, but who will show us what it looks like by their lives. I'm so grateful to God that we have many such men and women in our churches today, including my colleague Alvin Reid who left today on a mission trip to Thessaloniki and President Akin who recently spent time in southern Sudan.

8:22 AM Question for you. In Phil. 2:16 did Paul say we are to "hold fast to" or "hold forth" the Word of life? My personal preference is the latter interpretation because I think it better fits the context ("shining as lights in the world"). Plainly, however, Paul could have intended both meanings (thus making the expression a case of intentional ambiguity). His point, then, would be that while it is important, vital even, to hold fast to the Gospel (i.e., preserve and protect it from error), that is never enough. We must protect and proclaim the life-giving Word. This notion is consistent with everything we read in the Pauline epistles. Paul was no mean theologian, but he was every bit as much a great evangelist, perhaps more so. And, since he invites his readers to share his attitude in these matters, he implies that doctrine is never sufficient in itself, unless that doctrine is applied in practical ways. This dual emphasis upon the sanctity of the Gospel and our responsibility to share it with others is present again and again in Paul. To put it another way, a church should never be centered on itself. Every true Bible church is also a missional church.

8:04 AM Quote of the day (Jürgen Moltmann):

It is only when human beings see themselves simply as human beings, no longer as gods, that they are in a position to perceive the wholly other nature of God.  It is only when we cease to be unhappy supermen and pathetic mini-gods and permit ourselves to become human beings through and through again that we let God be God.

7:41 AM What were you doing 30 years ago? Exactly 30 years ago I graduated from Talbot Seminary with my M.Div. I was 28 years young.

It was 30 summers ago that Becky and I began the process of moving to Basel, Switzerland to begin doctoral studies under Prof. Bo Reicke.

My first journal article would be published at about that time (GTJ, 1981), though I would have to wait another 4 years to see my first book in print. 30 years ago I was a Los Angeles Rams and Lakers fan, bar none. I already had 4 years of teaching experience under my belt at Biola College. I was using Chase and Phillips' beginning Greek grammar in my classes. Eventually I changed to Summers. We were apartment dwellers at the time. No pets. We attended the College Church in La Mirada. Our favorite restaurant was El Cholo's.

Fast forward 30 years. So what have I learned in this time?

  • That I am called upon to live in the light of the cross.

  • That I am to sacrifice my self (and my body if necessary) for Christ.

  • That I am required as a follower of Jesus to forfeit things that I consider perfectly legitimate in order that I might win others with the Gospel.

  • That I am told in the Scriptures not only to be good but to do good.

There is pain in these reflections. The past 30 years have not, for the most part, been lived for others. Not, at least, in any sacrificial sense. Nor has love been my constant priority. To fail in love is to fail completely in our witness to Christ. I have grown, perhaps, in my theological grasp, my teaching ability, my leadership qualities, my publishing record, my loyalty to the local church. The fact remains, however, that all of these things are irrelevant in the eyes of a lost world. My academic attainments, my scholarly reputation, my list of publications -- these are purely secondary when it comes to my witness to others. What the world knows, and sees, and recognizes, and values, and needs is love. As Francis Schaeffer once put it, love is the distinguishing mark of the Christian and the greatest apologetic for Christianity. Has love been my constant priority these past 30 years? Hardly. But gradually, year by year, I've begun to realize that the great blows of God are designed to awaken me from the slumber of my tiny humanity and make a Christian out of me. My trials have produced spiritual muscles even as my body grows feeble and flabby. I have been forced -- yes, trials push one towards the love of God! -- forced, I say, to stop trusting in my own looks, eloquence, power, or ability and to trust instead in the incredible grace of God in Christ. 30 years ago I had the world wrapped around my little finger. Christianity was easy. Today I gladly admit: There is no such thing as easy Christianity. As never before, Christ's love has gripped me, propelled me, and impelled me along one magnificent obsession: To know Him and to make Him known. I am rich in Christ, and these riches have nothing to do with diplomas or degrees. That sounds too simple, perhaps, but it is the voice of 30 years of experience speaking. If you are a Christian, you are rich too. I hope that you too will find true riches, know them, claim them, and live in the proved experience of them.

Wednesday, June 9

9:17 PM Shot this tonight. Our Creator is awesome.

6:33 PM (Another!) farm update: We were able to get up a few of our bales today. Spent most of our time helping an elderly neighbor get up his. O Ripple Field, O Ripple Field, if the weather cooperates we'll finish thee tomorrow.

One final thought on this, my birthday. Reaching adulthood is one thing. It doesn't mean we stop maturing, however. One can never say, "I have arrived. I have reached the pinnacle of Christian living. I've no more learning to do. So let others come to me and glean from my vast wisdom and experience." Spiritual adults make their relationship with God their top priority. And this always results in our own continuing growth. At 58 I'm beginning to feel my physical age. But the important question is: Am I still maturing spiritually? I hope so.

9:47 AM Brief farm update: Nate (the master of the harvest) tells me the hay is still a bit too wet to be baled, so very shortly we will be putting yesterday's harvest into the barns. In the meantime I am making very good progress on writing the new postscript to Why Four Gospels? When that is done I hope to bring the bibliography up to date. I am eager to see the book republished and even more eager to see our students rethinking the whole synoptic problem.

9:06 AM I have two doctoral students taking their orals next Monday. Want them to know of my prayers. By the way, I'm thinking of doing the orals in German.


8:54 AM I'm reading Colossians. In Col. 1:23 Paul says he became a "minister" of the Gospel. Apparently Paul could not speak of the Gospel without thinking of his own role as a minister (or servant -- the Greek term is diakonos) of the Gospel. At the same time, in 1:25 he calls himself a "minister" of the church. What a powerful combination. Paul serves the Gospel and at the same time he serves the church. Could these terms be used interchangeably to describe me? Am I a servant of the Gospel? A servant of the church? I want to be. I need to be -- if there is to be any Great Commission Resurgence. 

7:44 AM From my morning devotions in Romans: "How beautiful are the feet of those messengers who announce the Good News!" How beautiful indeed!

7:37 AM Food for thought:

The stubborn adherence to Markan priority in the face of all its weaknesses compels one to conclude that it has been regarded almost unconsciously as a dogma of scholarship....

Why Four Gospels? (p. 58).

7:26 AM Lord willing, a week from today I'll be hosting a table at the SEBTS alumni luncheon in Orlando. Hope to see many alums there.

7:23 AM When God says "Fear Not" He means it. 

7:20 AM Today I am officially on old geezer. Or was that last year's birthday lol!

Tuesday, June 8

7:27 PM Just scarfed down the leftover spaghetti from yesterday's party. I refuse to cook spaghetti ever again -- at least not when Matt's around to prepare it.

7:04 PM Haying, Day 2:

We began the day by putting up several trailer loads of hay into one of our barns.

You may recall me documenting the construction of this barn. It's a simple building with cedar posts and pine rafters. All the lumber and tin was scavenged.

Any broken bales go to feed our Angus or our Holsteins.

No explanation needed:

The field we worked on yesterday required more raking and baling today. This too went into our barns.

Then it was off to the "ripple field." The name derives from its undulating features. My job was to rake it.

Here's Nate preparing to bale it.

We worked from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. The day closed with Jessie driving the hay to the barn.

Someone once quipped, "I love work; I could watch it all day." Well, I do enjoy watching hay being baled.

And I enjoy picking it up too. Square bales are not seen much in these parts. That's because square baling is too labor intensive for most farmers. I'm grateful for the physical strength to do this kind of work.

Tomorrow: More haying.

8:37 AM I apologize for yet another farming video, but there is nothing I enjoy quite so much as getting up hay.


7:44 AM A few pix from yesterday.

Here we are at the Staunton River State Park. The pool is Olympic-sized. We explored, I think, every nook and cranny in it.

Micah enjoyed the wading pool.

On the way home we noticed Nate and Jess out haying.

I got on my grubbies and proceeded to man my duty station: the rake.

We got up several trailer loads.

... including this monster. Do I look like a strutting peacock or what?

Jessie drove the truck. Nolan has a "desk job" (the expression is Nate's).

When we finally arrived back at Bradford Hall, Matt was busily preparing our birthday dinner.

With lots of help from Liz of course.

The table was beautifully set.

Waiting for Mama B to say the magic word before we can start eating: "Enjoy!"

Little wonder I call him the "balloon boy."

How many people does it take to light 59 candles?

I needed lots of help blowing them out, too.

Only one of those 59 candles was Nolan's, and it was the biggest of the lot.

The dessert was yummy.

Did I say the dessert was yummy

Nolan agrees.

Micah loves his Papa B, and his Papa B loves him!

Time to open presents. Mine were mostly of the gastronomic variety, including salsa and chips.

Here Caleb reads Nolan's birthday cards to him.

Time to say goodbye and goodnight!

All except for Nate and me. We had more bales to pick up out of the fields.

And thus the day drew to a close.

I want to thank Becky, Matt, Liz, Caleb, Isaac, Micah, Nate, Jess, and my co-celebrant Nolan for making my birthday dinner so wonderful. I could not imagine a more perfect day!

Monday, June 7

11:08 AM Believe it or not, I can't find my swimming trunks. This is embarrassing for anyone who hails from Hawaii. Looks like I will have to swim in my jeans. Tell it not in Gath!

10:24 AM Go here to read about the Tigre, the "Unreached People of the Day." The Tigre people of Eritrea (and Ethiopia) are very close to my heart. The Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is Tigre (pictured below), as is the current Prime Minister. This is just one of many tribes in Eritrea and Ethiopia out of which God is calling a people to worship in His presence (Rev. 5:9).

By the way, while you're at the Bethel Hill site, take a look at Becky's interview with our new Sunday School Director (and former missionary to Ethiopia!), Stacey Hatley.

9:24 AM Just published: El Camino para Auto-Apoyo según Tesalonicenses. For more Spanish essays, go here.

9:08 AM I think my favorite part of the movie The Longest Day is the portrayal of the assault by British glider commandos on the Orne River Bridge at 11 minutes past midnight. Imagine being the first allies to land in occupied France, surrounded by your enemies and knowing that relief could take hours if not days to arrive from the coast.

I think it takes as much unflinching courage to be a missionary today in some places of the world. The truth is, every Christian is a soldier. We must be so committed to our cause that we are prepared to maintain our objective even at the cost of our lives. We are to "wage the good warfare" (1 Tim. 1:18) and "take our share of suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 2:3). To be honest, there is nothing more difficult in my life than traveling to rural Ethiopia. It's just plain hard on the old body. But even harder than the physical discomfort is the spiritual opposition. The devil is indeed a "roaring lion prowling around looking for someone to devour" (1 Pet. 5:8). Satan will do all he can to undermine the kingdom of God in Ethiopia, but not only there but also in Mecklenburg County Virginia. There is a very clear lesson for me here. I cannot escape the battle. I cannot declare myself a conscientious objector and sit out the war. Every Christian faces diabolical and personal opposition (just read The Screwtape Letters). And we must be determined to repel every attempt of the enemy to occupy God's territory.

Thankfully, we do not fight alone. Jesus is always with us -- and not only is He present. I can draw strength and courage from my fellow soldiers like Cindi and Danny and Jon and Nicole and Jason and Rick and Matthea. After all, we are on the winning side!

8:32 AM A bearing in the haybine is kaput. Hope to have it replaced today. Looks like Tuesday and Wednesday will be baling days. Today it looks like I'm going swimming with the boys. Tonight is THE birthday party to end all birthday parties!

8:20 AM Two more quotes about the church from my 1980 master's thesis The Address of the Ephesian Epistle:

Eduard Lohse (Die Entstehung des Neuen Testaments, p. 192):

Ob in der Mehrzahl oder in der Einzahl von der ekklesia gesprochen wird, immer handelt es sich in der Versammlung der christlichen Gemeinde um Gottes heiliges Volk. Der einzelnen Gemeinde fehlt also nights, um die Kirche Jesu Christi vollständig repräsentieren zu können. Gottes Volk ist versammelt in Thessalonich, Philippi, Korinth, Rom, Braunschweig, Gandersheim und wo immer sonst.

Herman Bavinck (Gereformeerde Dogmatiek, 4:302):

In de verschillende plaatselijke vergaderingen der geloovigen komt de ééne gemeente van Christus tot openbaring.

My conclusion was as follows:

Thus the epistle was written to the Ephesians and addressed to them, but Paul used a form to emphasize the Ephesian assembly as a representative of the universal church, rather than as a local church. This was appropriate, because for Paul the local church is nothing more than the result of the expansion of the one universal church.

By the way, I included an appendix that provided translations of all foreign language quotes.

Sunday, June 6

5:38 PM I was blessed by brother Danny's testimony today. Danny is returning to Ethiopia with us on June 29. He said we cannot offer service to God in the power of the flesh or with an impure heart. Living off our own resources leads only to death and flames. There is absolutely nothing in us -- not our education, not our abilities, not our riches -- that will enable us to live a life pleasing to God. Jesus died and rose again so that we might live off His resources. Danny also emphasized that we cannot let circumstances, friends, or family keep us from doing the will of God. We cannot let knowledge and information replace actual obedience. Powerful truths!

I'm honored and humbled to be serving alongside men and women like Danny. Truly the church is an amazing organism!

12:53 PM I'll watch this tonight in commemoration of this day in history:

I love it when the Germans speak German and the French speak French.

12:43 PM Praise God for another project completed! Here are the clinic door signs Becky designed. We've had three people check the Amharic for us. She even color-coded the signs for those who might be illiterate. Neat.

Saturday, June 5

10:31 PM Mr. Self-Confidence and his mom and dad joined us for an Ethiopian supper tonight. Yummy. Becky cooked it herself.

Nolan's first birthday is this week, along with my 58th. A celebration is planned for Monday night. Care to join us?

5:04 PM Nate cut more hay today. Lots of it. Looking forward to getting it up and into the barns next week.

4:49 PM In case you're interested in such things, below are a few pix from our final orientation meeting before we leave for Ethiopia. I feel very virtuous for not eating any of the Ethiopian food that Becky had prepared. Seems everyone thoroughly enjoyed it though. (There's a rumor that even Marshall thought it tasted good.) And thus our preparations have come to a conclusion. One thing is sure: life never works out exactly the way one plans. Despite our very best efforts to be "prepared" for this trip, surprises will come. Of course, if we have the eyes of faith, they will all be grace surprises. As for me, I want to have the wise eyes to delight in whatever God has in store for me. The bottom line is that the kingdom of God is expanding in Ethiopia and Satan is not very happy about it. The drama of gun shots, the ugliness of murder, people trying to cope with chaos -- I've seen it all, but "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound" (Rom. 5:20). It is the grace of God that makes all the difference in life, isn't it? But that grace requires our response, and we respond best, I think, by serving the interests of Christ wherever we may be. Ministry exhausted Jesus. It will do the same for our team members, young and old alike. But on the other side of the equation is the realization that God delights in using unworthy vessels to transform darkness into light. This is what our team hopes to do in Ethiopia, and what we are equipping others to do as well.

But enough jawing. Here are the pictures. The final one shows brother Jon Glass, pastor of Cresset Baptist Church who hosted us today. Our heartfelt thanks to him --  and them -- for serving our team in this way.

9:02 AM Got some great writing done this morning on my new post-script for Why Four Gospels? Even talked about (wink, wink) "dispensing with Q." Now I'm off to meet with an awesome group of missionaries. 

Friday, June 4

9:04 PM Great time of celebrating tonight. Focus: The faithfulness of God to our family over the past 11 months.

So much to be thankful for. Really, the list is endless. At the top is the joy Becky and I share in our life together. In the past two days, while driving hither and thither, we've had many good jokes about the experiences we've had together over the past 33 years. Like almost being ticketed by a cop in Paris for sitting on the grass near the Eiffel Tower. Or seeing a sign at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii that said, "Bathroom behind trees." Or how about the street sign in Kaneohe that said, "Right turn dangerous." (The sign was bent over at a 90 degree angle.) In any case, we have no complaints. Gratitude has a lot to do with one's outlook on life. And forgiveness is the queen of virtues.

Switching topics: Below are our fantastic servers at the Abyssinia.

Ginet (left) just arrived in the States from Gondar, a city in northern Ethiopia we've visited several times. Welcome to America, Miss "Heaven" (that's what her name means). So many changes you'll have to make. The adjustments may not come easy. We hope you will look to Jesus for help. Thanks for your outstanding service to us tonight. We'll be back, Lord willing.

4:01 PM Off to Ethiopian food!

3:33 PM Photo of the day:

And how is your garden doing?

3:27 PM Quote of the day #3:

When Christians seek to apply the Bible, they treat it only as an instruction manual to be consulted on occasion when they need to know how to do something or when they need an answer to an important question-- Scripture as reference work. To embody the Bible is view it as the Constitution that gives the church it's identity because its pages bear witness to the writer of the Constitution-- God.

Read Don't Apply Scripture, Embody It.

1:22 PM Quote of the day #2:

To declare homeschooling a haven for child abusers and slack jawed yokels because you disagree with a well written editorial penned by a homeschooler shows an incredible lack of perspective and what can only be labeled ignorance and intolerance.

Read The intolerance of those who consider homeschooling intolerant.

12:56 PM Working on the syllabus for my Septuagint class. In addition to the book of Ruth, we will be translating "samplers" from the rest of the LXX. Any suggestions? Psalm 23 (22) for sure!

Note the verb "The Lord shepherds me" in verse 1 (translating a Hebrew qal participle) instead of "The Lord is my shepherd," and the articular infinitive in verse 6 (to katoikein me). Lots of interesting and instructive stuff here.

12:24 PM Check out Thomas Schreiner's review of The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown, a book whose three authors include two of my esteemed colleagues. Tom concludes:

Certainly no one will agree with everything in a book that is so comprehensive. We can be thankful for the scholarship, the reverence for God’s word, and the accessibility of this volume. I suspect it will be adopted as a text in many classes.

11:57 AM Just weeded the garden beds. Garden is happy. Weeds are not.

10:02 AM Right now B's in the kitchen cooking up a storm of Ethiopian food for tomorrow's final orientation meeting at Cresset Baptist Church in Durham: Doro wat, tsige wat, alecha wat. We'll buy the injera at the restaurant tonight.

9:55 AM One of the greatest joys of working in Ethiopia is the privilege of ministering among the masses of people who live in the villages. I think Jesus, too, must have enjoyed working among the common folk. The bulk of the people in Galilee were rural peasants called "the people of the land." The Pharisees studiously avoided contact with such "riff-raff." Their arrogance kept them from mingling among the masses. Jesus, on the other hand, identified Himself with the working poor. Even foxes and birds were better off than He was! His new kingdom had a place for the lowly. I am eager for the newcomers on our team to visit the villages of Burji and Alaba. Forget extravagance. Forget electricity and running water. But be prepared for plenty of good fellowship. You will be welcomed with open arms and hearts. You will live and labor and eat and sleep among people with whom you will spend all of eternity. And you will be reminded that God does not require elaborate buildings and complicated ritual to please Him. In fact, Jesus didn't come to establish religion at all.

I am convinced that the church is the finest society on earth. It has been given love as no other body on this planet has love. It is God's "masterpiece" (Eph. 2:10). That is not said of the family, the government, or any other institution.

8:02 AM Quote of the day:

A hallmark of biblical hermeneutics is that God gave us in Scripture what was necessary for our salvation, but not our curiosity. That’s why we find so little about the first 30 years of Jesus’ life. A Bible that draws more attention to the frivolous details not intended by the original author may do more harm than good.

Read The Future of the Bible.

7:58 AM We must stop confusing self-discipline for legalism. Jesus hated legalism but practiced obedience. I yearn to become like Jesus in this regard.

7:48 AM From the New York Times: The latest on the Ethiopian elections.

Thursday, June 3

9:46 PM We'll know we are Great Commission Christians when we are willing to give up our children to go to a faraway country, if need be, never to return, in order to serve King Jesus.

9:40 PM Big event tomorrow night! If Becky is feeling up to it I plan on taking her out to the Abyssinia restaurant in Raleigh for some spicy Ethiopian food to celebrate the end of her treatments. My mouth is already watering.

8:05 PM The ETC site recently posted some theses on New Testament textual criticism. Not that it's very interesting, but here's my masters thesis from 1980, written under Robert Thomas at Talbot (then Seminary, now School of Theology).

My focus was on the destination of Ephesians and I concluded that the reading en Epheso in 1:1 is indeed original and that the original readers of "Ephesians" were in fact the Ephesians.

In rereading the thesis I see that it contains numerous foreign quotes --  German, French, Dutch even. An even stranger fact is that I quoted the essay of a man under whom I would eventually study at Basel: Bo Reicke's "Unité Chrétienne et Diaconie," in Neotestamentica et Patristica (Leiden: Brill, 1962). Here's a marvelous quote from that essay:

La totalité de l'église c'est pour saint Paul le fait primaire, sa localisation en est seulement un corallarie.

This is still exactly how I feel and think about the church today! For Paul, every local church is nothing more than the representation of the one universal church. This is why I do not think of "my" church as Bethel Hill Baptist Church only. "My" church is also your church, and the church in Ethiopia, and the church in China. Thus if one church suffers, I must suffer with it; I have no choice because Christ does not have "bodies," He has one Body. In the words of Reicke (from the same essay):

En effet, Paul est enclin à regarder chaque église locale, non seulement comme une copie de léglise universelle, mais comme étant l'église univiverselle elle-même, réalisée dans ce monde.

Isn't that great stuff? To think that I can still be encouraged from something I wrote back in the Dark Ages!

7:30 PM Time for you know who to make pancakes for supper.

7:25 PM I see that Nate and Jess have been working on the equipment sheds off of the new barn. (Nolan, too. He's the supervisor.)

Using scrap lumber and tin, of course.

I think there may be a kingdom principle here. Working in the kingdom of God is like building a structure. One person may build the frame, another the door, and still another the roof. Ultimately it doesn't really matter who is doing what so long as the structure gets built. The main thing is that love rules among the workers and that everybody does their job to the best of their ability. There is no other way to reach the 6 billion souls in this world. The Lord is looking for individuals who are willing to work together to reach these lost billions with salvation.

2:28 PM Been a productive day so far. Just finished pressure washing the exterior of Bradford Hall, trying to get rid of the mold and grime that had collected over the winter. Looks pretty nice, eh?

I couldn't have done it without this very handy contraption.

Then I mowed the yards, which are deep green thanks to all the rain the Lord has sent us this summer.

Finally, I couldn't help but take a couple of pix of B's beautiful roses.

I especially enjoyed this solitary beauty.

Right now I'm off to town to get Becky's Nulasta from CVS and then run a few other errands. Becky too worked very hard this morning. Right now she is sound asleep :)

11:14 AM Will Willimon on Three Signs of a Miserable Job. I recall once having two miserable jobs, simultaneously. I was delivering tax returns to offices in downtown Los Angeles, and I was working 12-shifts at a vitamin factory. The only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that the money earned (and saved) would help us live in Basel. Sometimes miserable jobs are necessary!

10:52 AM We apply a double standard in our churches when we automatically approve building repairs and then debate supporting foreign missionaries.

10:29 AM New at TIME magazine: Young Evangelicals: Expanding Their Mission. Lots of interesting stuff here.

Today's young Evangelicals cut an altogether different figure. They are socially conscious, cause-focused and controversy-averse.

Read more:,8599,1992463,00.html?xid=rss-topstories#ixzz0pnf7uzH6
Today's young Evangelicals cut an altogether different figure. They are socially conscious, cause-focused and controversy-averse

Read more:,8599,1992463,00.html?xid=rss-topstories#ixzz0pnfBOFSV

10:10 AM I fear for the country whose churches have forsaken their duty to take the Gospel to the nations.

10:03 AM In my morning devotions today, this repetition struck me: "admonishing every person and teaching every person in all wisdom in order that we might present every person complete in Christ" (Col. 1:28). Whatever you do in life, don't do to the multitudes only. Every individual is important to God. Are you a teacher? You dare not leave your office door closed. Are you a missionary? The bottom line of all missionary work is the individual. A few years ago I asked God for the privilege of discipling a handful of men, and He has honored that request. My own life was enriched and deeply changed when I began to meet one-on-one with certain of my professors. Paul concentrated on a few, selected them carefully, and then poured out his life into them.

Why shouldn't we do that too?

9:29 AM The first step in a resurgence of interest in the Great Commission is to rediscover the full work of the cross.

9:13 AM Couples married for 40 years are not divorce-proof:

"It's the whole phenomenon of living longer, of having sex longer, of being healthier, oftentimes of being wealthier and feeling that they can easily pursue a no-fault divorce," says divorce lawyer John Mayoue of Atlanta. "I think we're seeing persons in long marriages questioning whether in fact there's a better life out there."

The Gores apparently just grew apart. "They have their separate lives and they were both relatively happy being without the other person." So easy to happen. And it CAN happen to you -- and me.

If you think you stand, take heed lest you fall.

9:05 AM Very excited to read that my colleague Alvin Reid is soon to be honored by a Festschrift. I know of no one who is more deserving. For more on that announcement, as well as Alvin's summer reading suggestions, go here.

9:00 AM If you're taking our LXX class this fall (co-taught by Bob Cole and yours truly), you'll find this Wordle interesting:

We will be translating Ruth in both Greek and Hebrew. We chose this book partly because of its fantastic message: God loves the needy in this world and is a rewarder of those who help them. Great book. Great story. Great Savior.

Wednesday, June 2

9:32 PM Christianity, when it is open to people at intimate levels, has the power to change entire societies.

9:23 PM Good news! The second edition of Why Four Gospels? will be out Nov. 1, in time for ETS and SBL. Right now I am writing a new postscript.

6:16 PM At this moment Becky is cooking Chinese stir fry for supper. Patience, O mouth!

6:11 PM The more missionary responsibilities I have, the more I realize my need to let go of my desire to exercise control.

6:03 PM Today, during our faculty meeting, I was reminded again why I love working with such humble colleagues. God always frustrates the efforts of the proud to pin Him down, but He gladly reveals Himself to the downtrodden. The old Scottish proverb says it well: "Greek, Hebrew, and Latin all have their proper place, but it's not at the head of the cross where Pilate put them, but at the foot of the cross in humble service to Jesus." Anyone can say "Scholarship on fire." But at Southeastern I really believe this is more than a wall motto.  

4:11 PM Got my fall textbook orders in today. I'm using Guthrie's Hebrews in my course by that title. I chose it because of its excellent combination of scholarship and practical theology. Here's a marvelous interview with George in which he discusses his work on Hebrews, discourse analysis, etc. As you can see, the good professor is a churchman at heart and believes the best scholarship is done within the context of the local church. Sweet.

4:04 PM Congratulations to Mark Liederbach (new dean of students) and Ken Keathley (new dean of the seminary)! Looking forward to working under your leadership gentlemen. And a big "thank you" to their predecessors Allan Moseley and David Nelson. I know of no place I'd rather be than at SEBTS.

7:15 AM So, has God healed Becky? We've done all we can, but I'm not placing my hope in treatment. The Gospels show us that Jesus was never bound by one technique in healing. His approaches were endless. Some healings were instantaneous, others were gradual. Becky has shown nothing but steadfast faith throughout her ordeal, and I have no doubt whatsoever that her faith will be crowned and rewarded, whatever the outcome. As for me, I think I'm more like Peter who wanted his mother-in-law healed. (By the way, she was probably suffering from typhus, a common aliment in Ethiopia.) Her healing was immediate; no period of convalescence was needed. Jesus simply came, stood over the woman, and rebuked the fever. And what did she do after she had been made whole again? Served Jesus. Now if that doesn't sound like my Becky! I'm not one to think there is there "healing in the atonement" (Isa. 53:5) in the sense that God is obligated to heal our mortal bodies. Yes, Jesus often functioned as a Healer but that's not why He came. He was the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world. But Christ's work today is not limited to the spiritual. The centrality of the cross is not destroyed when we seek to ameliorate the suffering of others.

So Jesus is our hope. He isn't finished with us yet. We are still growing into what He wants us to be. I can't stress enough how important it is for sufferers to be yielded to His Spirit during their trials, trusting Him to guide their thinking.

Christ-likeness, not perfect health, is our goal.

7:04 AM Arthur Sido makes this astute observation about the Anabaptists:

The original Anabaptists and their modern progeny have much to praise but likewise they have much to be cautious about. I try to remember when praising the Anabaptists that they have their flaws and that we should not seek to “become Anabaptists”. Anabaptism is not the answer, but Anabaptism does help point us to the answer.

Point well-taken. I put it this way in The Jesus Paradigm:

I hope no reader will suppose that Anabaptism is being put forward as an alternative to the Word of God, as if any man-made movement is preferable to the testimony of inspired Scripture. The record of Anabaptism is by no means a spotless one. Like every movement of the Holy Spirit it is the story of a weak, stammering church that moved over a field of ecclesiastical rubble. I’m not condoning everything in the movement or offering pious panaceas. If I have left an overly positive impression, it is because I believe that an appreciation of Anabaptism can prove fruitful in many areas of Christian life and witness. The important point is this: Anabaptism was a valid, if incomplete, representation of Christ’s Body – nothing more, nothing less. I also hope that this chapter might have a mollifying effect on those modern-day traditionalists who view dissent as inherently misguided and dissenters as mere fanatics or Schwärmer. (The parallel with Luther and Zwingli will not escape the reader.)

Learn from them; but don't worship them.

Tuesday, June 1

9:55 PM It's time to Praise the Lord! Becky's final chemo treatment is now history. I tell you, it was a crazy day. B was the second patient to arrive at the infusion clinic and the second to the last to leave it this afternoon. But all's well that ends well. I have to tell you that through all of the treatments, all of the driving (we put over 14,000 miles on the car), all of the triumphs and frustrations of our journey with cancer, God's plans for me have not been less than my hopes and dreams but far more. He can be trusted! When we started this course together we never looked back. We determined from the get-go that there is no need to pare down God's promises until they square with scientific probabilities. We serve a first-rate God, not a second-class flunky. And any journey with Him is an exciting pilgrimage.

Fellow cancer sufferers, through thick and thin, through hard times and good, be who you are -- precious children of the one who "shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth." Yes, Praise Ye the Lord!

Below: I would never show a picture like this one without Becky's approval. In fact, she is the one who asked me to take it. Doesn't she look good?

You did great honey. I love you.

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