June 2012 Blog Archives
Saturday, June 30
Friday, June 29
7:20 PM Should be a great conference. And a plus: We've got a beautiful campus I think you would enjoy.
Read SBC -- Illusion of Unity.
3:58 PM Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception (EBR), an ambitious research tool comprising 30 volumes and published by de Gruyter in Berlin.
The first four volumes have already appeared (2009-2012). Am honored to participate.
Thursday, June 28
June 27: “To look for justice [for ourselves] is a sign of deflection from devotion to Him. Never look for justice in this world [for yourself], but never cease to give it. If we look for justice, we will begin to grouse and and indulge in the discontent of self-pity….The most devout among us become atheistic in this connection; we do not believe God; we enthrone common sense and tack the name of God on to it.”
7:15 AM Cameroon, Ukraine, Suriname, Romania, Netherlands, Ghana, Ethiopia, USA, Serbia, Finland, Georgia, Myanmar, Rwanda, Kazakhstan, and Brazil. Talk about a truly International Ministry!
Praying for you guys....
Wednesday, June 27
7:04 PM J. Stuart Holden):
Tuesday, June 26
5:31 PM "Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservations." Good word for today.
5:02 PM On this day in 1948 the Berlin Airlift began. Eventually a wall was built to divide East and West Berlin. Its destruction in 1989 was the precursor of the collapse of the Soviet Union two years later. (I've got a piece of the wall in my safe deposit box.) Incidentally, if you're a Germanophile (as I am) perhaps you will remember the "gaffe that never was." In his speech in Berlin in 1963, John Kennedy spoke the famous words, "Ich bin ein Berliner."
Some argued that Kennedy should have said "Ich bin Berliner," even though the phrase was translated for him by a professional interpreter. "Ich bin Berliner" would have implied that Kennedy was an actual citizen of Berlin, whereas "Ich bin ein Berliner" implies solidarity rather than identity: "I am one with the people of Berlin." Oh well. Reminds me of the controversies brewing in certain Baptist circles today. May God somehow protect us from all those eddies of peripheral debate in which we spin round and round, all the while missing the rivers of God's work both in the church and the world!
2:39 PM Unsure of whether God is calling you to get involved in global evangelization? Then read my latest essay: One Person at a Time.
8:12 AM The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth begins July 2 and runs through the fall. The exhibit features 7 fragments that have never been on public display before. Bible scholars and archeologists will be speaking weekly. I plan on inviting my father-in-law to attend with me. To learn more, simply visit www.seethescrolls.com.
8:08 AM Hi bloggers and bloggerettes!
In my forthcoming book Paul, Apostle of Weakness, I make much of future salvation and the prospect of receiving a redeemed body to match my present redeemed spirit. The older I get, the more aware I am of my own finitude, weakness, and mortality. I think the same was true of Paul. I am also learning to appreciate more and more the fundamental necessity of the energizing power of the Holy Spirit. Whether it is outwardly apparent or not, I am God's workmanship. So are you. You are not less of a person if you are single, or if your mental faculties begin to wane, or if you cannot walk. Even though life is painful at times, I can truly rejoice because I know that the process of sanctification only increases the potential of God's power being displayed in my weaknesses. Happily, some day we will exchange all that is mortal about us for complete immortality. In that day we will "know as we are known." In the meantime -- if I have understood Paul correctly -- God's means of making us strong is by making us weaker and weaker until the divine power alone is seen in our lives. Little wonder, then, that Paul did not merely tolerate his weaknesses. He boasted in them. To trust this reality is to be "born again" day after day, growing in the process of becoming priests and ministers to each other.
So that's my book in a nutshell. When we are weak, He is strong. Praise God!
P.S. I have to say that I'm getting totally excited about my trip to Ethiopia in two weeks. (Africa this July. Asia in October. Guyana in November. Ukraine in March. Tough life, eh?) If I've counted correctly, this will be my 13th visit to Alaba in 7 years. I was drawn there in 2005 when I heard about the murder of a 19-year old Christian. While there I met the murderer, who is now my son in the faith! Since then the Lord has arranged countless providential meetings with believers and unbelievers alike. Our visits to Alaba always involve intense ministry. Besides being the malaria capital of Ethiopia, there's typhoid, typhus, and lots of dust to contend with. For me, the most rewarding aspect of our trips is working alongside a persecuted church. Believe me, the believers in Alaba don't fight over Calvinism. They are too busy living out the radical kingdom of Jesus. The Devil's throne is absolutely powerless in comparison with the love that flows from Calvary!
Folks, the world has 7 billion people, 2/3rds of whom are poor and 1/4th of whom suffer from malnutrition and disease. Many have never heard that God loves them and that Christ died for their sins. They deeply need to see a Christ-centered lifestyle. Will you pray that I might show them one?
Monday, June 25
5:35 PM Odds and ends ...
1) We just had the quickest treatment we've ever had at UNC. Grateful for efficient and expert health care.
2) Henry Neufeld writes to tell me that my book Christian Archy is now available on Kindle. Take note, all ye e-book fans.
3) Congratulations to "master" Robert Martin.
4) You really have to hand it to brother Jason. Yesterday he covered -- in one sermon -- the entirety of Romans chapter 7. Wow. (Undoubtedly Peter had Romans 7 in mind when he wrote 2 Pet. 3:16.) I tend to think that Romans 7 is best explained by Romans 8:3-4:
The fundamental concept of the New Testament is that sin is not only avoidable, but righteousness is the norm for every believer (1 John 2:1; 3:9). On the other hand, every one of us sins. The flesh, which is supposed to be our slave, becomes our master. That's frustrating! Only the Spirit can bring holiness. When He is at work, "oughts" become "wants." By God's strength we can stand up against sin and do what is right. Our deepest being begins to delight in God's law -- it never desires to sin. The self that I now am is inseparably linked to the life of Christ (Gal. 2:20). Assuming that one's conversion is real, it is then that we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Just as there can be no regeneration without the work of the Holy Spirit, so there can be no sanctification without the power of the indwelling Spirit of God. But the progress is erratic. It is three steps forward and two steps backwards. Hence, in my view, we never quite "leave" Romans 7.
Certainly a great mystery remains concerning the interpretation of Romans 7. I myself think it is describing the apostle Paul at the height of his Christian ministry. But I do not wish for a moment to shed any doubt on the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit. The entire Body of Christ should be very grateful for the gift of the Holy Spirit. I feel the debt very personally.
10:52 AM Praise God for good news! B's platelets are up, so it's off to UNC again to poison her body.
10:48 AM Mike Licona explains the word ostracism. You'll love it! Don't you be tellin' me that Greek ain't helpful.
10:10 AM Is sacrificial living the solution to America's abortion holocaust?
Read Evangelicalism = Christian Legislation. Followers of the Christian Right might be shocked by this suggestion, but Christian love demands that we take our faith to the street. Those who are the most sincere about fighting injustice are the ones who are willing to put their money where their mouth is.
9:12 AM "Learning is like rowing upstream: not to advance is to drop back" (ancient Chinese saying). If you're taking Greek 3 with me this fall, are you reviewing your Greek 1-2 this summer?
9:10 AM Awaiting word from the lab to see if Becky's platelets are good enough for chemo today. Lord, please heal her completely.
8:55 AM A SEBTS grad finds refuge in ministering to others. We praise God for you, Shane!
7:25 AM Greek students! Check out Helma Dik's Nifty Greek Handouts.
7:16 AM Rick Mang's tribute to his dog touched me. Yes, I am an unapologetic dog lover.
7:12 AM Yesterday brother Jason mentioned that next Sunday will be the commissioning service for our teams going to India, Kentucky, and Ethiopia this summer. His theme will be "Let's Go!" Amen to that. It's time, church, to move. How often are our churches like those animated automobiles in children's books, replete with smiling grills and blinking headlights.
The car is the center of attention. Its wipers swish, its horn honks, its radio blares. But it isn't moving. It's still in the safety of the carport. How many of our churches miss the main point? The purpose of the church is to get into gear and go. Instead, we're too busy showing off our interesting gadgets. How sad.
I'm so grateful to God that at The Hill I'm beginning to hear a series of explosions in our carburetors. The gears are meshed -- and we're moving. Praise God! "Let's Go" is not an option for a congregation that claims to be following Jesus. Of course, it is nice to move in style (think: Lexus). But if God chooses to use an old country bush hog for His glory, that's His prerogative!
Sunday, June 24
5:52 PM Almost forgot to thank Henry Neufeld of Energion Publications for his kindness in offering to give away my book The Jesus Paradigm. So, thank you, Henry! As I tried to show in the book, the Anabaptists got it right by emphasizing witness and service to the world. The Magisterial Reformers placed almost exclusive emphasis on preaching and the sacraments. The resultant stratification is still with us today. The time is ripe for projecting the Gospel into the whole of life through the service of every Christian. Let's do it!
1:25 PM Guess who's joined the blogosphere? None other than SEBTS Ph.D. grad Alex Stewart. His blog is called The Stewart Chronicles. His latest entry is titled, simply, Dissertation. (Yes, I played a small role in that project!)
I, for one, will be following the Stewart family chronicles as the Lord moves them to Europe for ministry.
1:17 PM Know what the top ten hymns of all time are? "Holy, Holy, Holy" is #2, while "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" is #10. Can you guess what is the #1 hymn before clicking here?
1:12 PM SEBTS students, Lord willing Dr. Ant Greenham and I will be leading a team to Guyana during Thanksgiving Break this fall. Details will follow, but please begin now asking the Lord if this is a trip He might want you to take. Course credit will be offered.
8:55 AM When I leave for Africa in a couple of weeks I will stop blogging for a while. That's a very good thing, if not for you, then certainly for me. Blogging is a societally accepted form of idolatry. We find meaning in our words, in our blog creations. It is a "ministry" to others, we feel. These "wholesome" idols are so terribly subtle because we can tell ourselves, "But isn't blogging a worthwhile goal?" The answer is Yes, but a goal can easily become the goal. It is then an idol, and it cannot help but cast a shadow on God's glory.
There are so many potential idols. An individual's entire life may be wrapped up in his or her blogging. Or teaching. Or preaching. Let someone threaten their idol and -- watch out!
Blog fasts are therefore a good thing. Sometimes it is better to be silent than to speak. Imagine an art gallery with no paintings. There are no pictures. Lasting ones, at any rate. Life, if it is to be found at all, must be found in Him, not in our giftedness.
Saturday, June 23
6:40 PM Two additional thoughts about ecclesiastical change:
1. Change is inevitable.
2. Change usually brings conflict.
We need to anticipate both.
Believe it or not, folks, not everyone in your church will be happy with forward progress. When conflict does arise, we should be careful that we have not caused it through our insensitivity or foolishness. Of course, not all conflict is bad. If I have to choose between the carnality of a poorly-informed Christian and take a step of obedience, I'd better stick with obedience. We can't be responsible for another Christian's immaturity. On the other hand, truth without love -- obedience without grace -- makes it impossible for the Holy Spirit to create genuine community. The bottom line? When the Lord Jesus shows the church a step of obedience, it's got to take it. What counts is a consistent, faithful life. Jesus said as much.
So ... let's not be a stumbling block to the weak. But let's not live in mortal fear of their disagreement, either. A church can spend too much time protecting the weaker brother and sister when it should be educating them.
6:34 PM Well, Arthur Sido is about to take the plunge and start a house church. Good for him. Go with your heart, friend. Be courageous. But remember: Anytime we step over manmade fences, we will appear misguided by those who planted the posts.
One word of caution, if I may. Keep the Great Cause on the front burner. If I had to choose between a paper-perfect church (i.e., elder-led, age-integrated, weekly observance of the Lord's Supper as a full meal, etc.) and a group of believers absolutely committed to sacrificially reaching the lost through loving words and deeds, I'd go with the latter every time. Too many Christians are reveling in their new-found ecclesiastical freedom and missing the point. Our mission isn't to huddle together but to approach the line of scrimmage and play ball. Yes, treasure Christ. Yes, treasure each other. But do try and allow folks to peek at the treasure. Let Jesus shine in and through you!
6:27 PM While Keith and I were working over at Maple Ridge last week we were conversing about life in general when he suddenly said, "We're going downhill, Dave." Normally, this idiom means that something's gone terribly wrong in your life and things are deteriorating rapidly. For a plumber, however, the words are joyful: the drain pipes are correctly angled; they are all going "downhill."
When was the last time something went wrong in your life? I mean, really wrong. A time when there was nothing you could do but to cast yourself on God's mercy. And mercy met you. Emptiness was filled with love. Apathy was replaced with cleansing fire. To be a Christian is to see God's hand of mercy in our trials. It is to turn our tear-stained eyes up to His and whisper, "Yes."
10:48 AM A Saturday shout out to the following winners of free copies of The Jesus Paradigm and Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions?: Drewe, David, Robert, Andrew, and Charles. May God use these books to help you follow King Jesus more radically each day.
10:40 AM Just said goodbye to the Glass family. Here's where Jon and the kids spent Thursday night. As you can see, Jon loves "roughing it"!
Fishing anyone? I won't tell you how many fish they caught, but John 21:5 is apropos here, I do believe.
What is the Bialetti Mocha Espresso maker?
Only the greatest invention since the printing press!
I am the "official" pancake maker in the family.
Actually, I call them "pan cookies." Imagine that -- cookies for breakfast!
That little Christian is really growing. He took several steps all by himself!
Ever heard of ladder ball? It's Nigusse's favorite game.
Puzzle update: Becky, with lots of help from Jon, Matthea, and Nigusse, is making real progress!
Off to weed the garden.
Friday, June 22
1:01 PM "Tetelestai!" (For all y'all rednecks out there, like me, that means "It is finished!").
... and after:
Robbie "Dunn" such a good job we awarded him with an honorary "PhD" from Rosewood Farm. As you can see, he was speechless.
"Why me, why is it always me??????"
Look who brought us lunch today. Thank you Carter, Katherine, and Caleb!
Down for a much-deserved nap!
12:45 PM Be thankful for the cross.
7:55 AM "It's a small world." How could I have known that Ben Durand's wife Betsy is the daughter of a good friend of mine who teaches at Criswell College in Dallas? How awesome! Jim Sibley spent 10 years as a missionary in Israel and speaks fluent modern Hebrew. Last time I saw him in Dallas he was so excited about the journal he is editing called Mishkan. His essay Obstacles to Jewish Evangelism (pdf) is well worth your time.
Off to work ...
Thursday, June 21
7:14 PM This evening we're blessed to have Jon Glass and Ben Durand and their families over for dinner. Both Jon and Ben have been to Ethiopia with us, and Jon will be going on our next trip in three weeks. Jon pastors at Cresset Baptist Church in Durham while Ben pastors at North Roxboro Baptist Church in Roxboro, both in the great state of North Carolina. Two more kingdom-oriented families you will never meet.
Becky's now serving up ice cream!
Pix (of course):
5:06 PM Here's a huge shout out and "Congratulations" to Becky's father Brad Lapsley, whose website Good Amharic Books now boasts over 800 books! Whoo-hoo!!!! Praise God!!!!
4:58 PM Well, the work of installing the floor joists is now over, and everyone is rejoicing vociferously. To what, then, shall I direct my colossal energies and talents (ha ha!)? The present consensus of opinion is that we should lay the subflooring and then take a breather before wiring the electricity, framing in the bathroom, and putting up the sheet rock. So the good work continues. Here are the latest photos.
I'm soooo grateful that the Lord is giving me strength for the task day by day. The Lord our Shepherd (Psalm 23), having saved His sheep, now provides everything they need for their daily sustenance. And guess what? Jesus is no mere hireling who lacks personal interest in the flock! No, the Lord is MY Shepherd, and my cup overflows, so well does He tend to His lambs.
Our carpenter, by the way, is Robbie Dunn. Robbie is a SEBTS grad and quite the skilled craftsman. He works in stone, metal, and wood. In fact, I think you'll find a visit to his website fascinating, as I did. It's called Dan River Architectural Millworks. And here's a further thought: Doing construction work is a vivid illustration of living the Christian life, is it not? Paul seems to say as much in 2 Tim. 2:15, where he describes the Christian as a workman that does not need to be ashamed. A Christian cannot be careless or flippant about the work he or she does. After all, God is watching what we do and testing its quality. His approval is always our goal. The Christian who works hard and loyally in response to the leading of Jesus "will be blessed in his doing" ((James 1:25). That certainly has been the experience of this untalented klutz. Our humility serves us falsely when we claim "I cannot do this -- it is far beyond my powers." Paul dares to tell the Philippians, "I can do everything (and face every circumstance) in union with Him who empowers me." No words could possibly put our privileges in Christ more strongly!
So, dear friend, is Jesus your strength this day, or is He not? The plea of unfitness or inability is an inadequate excuse if ever there was one.
Here endeth my sermon!
Wednesday, June 20
8:41 AM Odds and ends ...
1) The high temp today will be 92. The "Real Feel" will be 102. Yes, this is the "official" first day of summer.
2) I see that the 2013 meeting of the SNTS will be held in Perth. Maybe this is the excuse I need to visit my friends in Australia?
3) Fred Luter's election is cause for great thanks to God. Now if we could only have more ethnic diversity on our campuses.
4) According to reports, the death toll from religious rioting in Northern Nigeria on Sunday was 52 killed and 74 wounded. Let's remember to pray for our persecuted brethren.
Tuesday, June 19
8:28 PM Hey folks! Hope you're enjoying your summer (or, if you live Down Under, your winter!). I got a reprieve from work today on THE house, so I mowed several acres instead and then tied up a few loose ends here at the house. Inspired by this post by Brian LePort, I'm tempted to jump into the conversation (Yes and Yes: Yes, German is absolutely necessary for doctoral studies, as are French and Latin; and Yes, Spanish is an excellent language if you're thinking missionally -- plus there is much being written today in New Testament studies by Spanish scholars), but right now I've got to work on a different set of priorities. Our team leaves for Ethiopia in just over 2 weeks, and I'm madly preparing a series of talks for pastors on the book of Romans. I will also be teaching a course on the Pastoral Epistles at the Bible School in Alaba. By the way, I'm really enjoying this post by Lloyd Pieterson: The Pastoral Epistles Speak to Anabaptists Today. Here's a sample:
This is SO right on! People everywhere are waking up to the truth that the PEs are not simply church manuals. Paul's message in these letters is that sound doctrine ought to lead to the loving service of others, including our enemies. The goal of our instruction is love, he insists -- self-sacrificial love. Both Jesus and Paul consistently refused political power and coercion. The "tradition" that Paul passed on to Timothy was soaked in blood. People with a non-kingdom mindset try to find their security in authority or in law-keeping or in asceticism or in a hundred other substitutes. This perspective is natural for fallen human beings. God responds to this lust for power by sending His Son to die in weakness for the sins of the world. This is simply what it means to be under the reign of Christ. To honor the King, we must reject religion "falsely so-called," and especially any Christianized form of religion.
A few other things:
May our lives reflect the truth that the only hope for the world lies not in politics but in the power of the cross!
9:58 AM In just a few weeks I'll be back in the villages of Ethiopia, including this one, far away from so-called "civilization."
Yes, men hold hands in Ethiopia. Openly. Unashamedly. Incredible but true! What is the basis of this kind of human relationship? Christ says that He loves His Body. It has been given love as no other body has ever possessed love. So we must protect it, praise it, defend it, and pray for it. If you're ever in Ethiopia, hold hands with your brothers. Even if you feel awkward, do it! Understand how meshed are words and actions in the heart of God. The world is not impressed by our huge denominations or our great buildings or our busy programs. Oh, may it be a way of life for us to enjoy that rich fellowship of oneness in Christ!
9:11 AM How do we practice unity?
Oneness in the Body of Christ is heaven-made. We are truly members of one another. Let's act out this unity!
Monday, June 18
9:02 PM Today was so full I'm afraid I've neglected to update my blog. The carpenter and I have decided to work 10 hour days from now on, which means that I will have Fridays off. Our work -- like the Christian life -- never goes in a short straight line but seems to progress in a zigzag. Happiness comes in the evening when one looks back over the accomplishments of the day. Progress comes through optimistic grit: optimism that all will eventually turn out right, and grit to face the inevitable obstacles fearlessly. "The God of All Patience" -- this is one of God's names, and getting anything that is worthwhile done never happens over night. I think of our ministry home as a masterpiece in the making. Christ's yoke is easy, after all. Whatever our burden, He can lift us up.
I'm really really trying not just to get older but better. Am I succeeding?
9:20 AM The New Testament church was a brotherhood of believers who were all priests. By the third century it became a community centered in the bishop. This trend can and must be reversed today.
9:12 AM The "public profession of faith" in the New Testament was not signing a pledge card or raising one's hand or repeating a prayer. It was baptism. You got saved, you got wet. Baptism was a public "pledge of allegiance" to King Jesus. May it be so again.
8:22 AM Just picked:
7:53 AM Andrew Rozalowsky reads with a pencil.
I usually read with a pen.
Either way, good advice, Andrew.
7:46 AM Just saw this quote by Spurgeon over at Chip Bayer's excellent website (Thideology):
Of course, the key is one's definition of "missionary." A missionary is someone who, like Jesus, seeks the lost (Luke 19:10) relationally and relentlessly. Need a place to start? Love your brothers and sisters in Christ. Nothing brings people to Jesus quite like unity and love among believers (John 13:35). As the unique manifestation of Christ's Body, the local church holds staggering evangelistic capacity. Through our non-ecclesiastical vocations, our latent missional potential breaks loose -- in our homes, marriages, job, everywhere. We become the secular church -- the church in and for the world. Pastor friends, it's your job to take the lead and set the pace. If you do not have a far-reaching vision for the world and a plan to infiltrate that world, your people will never get on board. Encourage your church to reach and reach -- in all directions!
Sunday, June 17
6:38 PM Odds and ends ...
1) I cannot thank Nigusse enough for taking me and mom out to Ethiopian food today -- for the second Sunday in a row.
I am so honored and blessed. Igig betam amasaginalo!
2) Let's see if I can distill brother Jason's message this morning down to a single quote:
His text was Romans 6:15-26. If the truth were known, not some, but most Gospel calls are probably inadequate. Easy-believism is a killer. Only God's truth can exterminate it.
3) A few weeks ago I suggested to some ladies at The Hill that we declare today as Hat Day. This was the result.
Ain't they beautiful?
4) Please do read What Southern Baptists Need to Learn from Whitfield and Wesley. It's by Tim McKnight and spot on. Here's a summary:
5) I've been interested for many years to study the New Testament's teaching about deacons, and one book I've found very helpful is by Alexander Strauch. The New Testament Deacon: The Church's Minister of Mercy may not be Strauch's best writing, but it will at least get you started. I fear that many of his points will be a bit unsettling to many of us, however.
6) Finally: My Father's Day present.
Can't wait for my first cup in the morning.
8:24 AM In 1 John 2, the apostle John writes to the "fathers." I suppose these were the older men in the congregation, those to whom the younger could look up, men who might be expected to be more experienced in the Christian life and more knowledgeable about doctrine. They had known Christ "from the beginning." Apparently this means that they had seen Christ in the flesh. In Ethiopia, such a man would be called "Abba." They have walked a long time with Christ. They are "seniors" in Christianity. I know many of these men at Bethel Hill. The odd thing is that not many of them are very old. But one thing they all have in common is an insatiable desire to know the Word of God and to put it into practice. I thank God for each and every one of them, and today I would like to wish them a very Happy Father's Day.
8:20 AM Good read here: How to preach the gospel at work without getting fired.
8:14 AM Joshua over at The Daily Bleat is tweeting from the SBC Convention in New Orleans this week. I'll be reading.
8:07 AM From Eric Carpenter's Tradition Says ... comes this delightful quote:
Isn't that great? Now before your feathers get ruffled by what this says about Timothy, it will help you to realize that the church in Ephesus already had pastors/elders. Paul, in fact, had met with them previously in Ephesus. We sometimes forget this whenever we refer to 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus as the "Pastoral Epistles." Neither Timothy nor Titus were pastors! And unless we're careful, we'll think that "Pastor" Timothy is an exemplar of a local church leader. I'm convinced that this misconception is at the bottom of a lot of trouble we face in our churches today. Timothy's job was that of a personal apostolic representative of Paul. He was ministering in a church that had elders. Am I right? Well, you decide after reading Acts 20.
Church leader, take time to consider the order of things as God revealed these timeless principles. There's a good reason. The health of your local church may well depend on it.
Saturday, June 16
8:10 PM I have been in such a frenzy of work lately that I haven't been able to keep up with all the great bloggers who are out there. Our work today was very rewarding. The rough plumbing is all but finished now and very grand!
The kitchen is officially ready for its final framing in and for the floor joists.
We've had unusually beautiful weather of late and I'm praying that it will continue into next week. But I'm getting lazy and I, like the nation, find it easy to lapse into splendid docility. Well, at least I'll take Father's Day off!
I have given careful consideration to Becky's suggestion that I ingest a regular dose of Ibuprofen. Strangely enough, the older I get, the more detached I am from my own immediate circumstances and all the more attached to what God is doing. He has given a farm to me in order to share it with others, and my larger family are those who know Christ and love His kingdom. The better I come to know Him, the more devoted I become to what He is devoted to, and the more I desire to live and move and serve and breath for His kingdom to come. Ideologies of both the left and the right lack this essential commitment to Truth. They are trying too hard to push through their liberal agenda or, conversely, their sure-fire remedy to our liberalism. They miss the paradox of powerless Christianity, which alone brings heaven down to earth. The state, like the church, has become sacral, but Jesus is the ultimate anti-sacral Lamb. And at the heart of His thinking was a radical view of leadership in which leaders and led are no longer opposites, but one. Leading from poverty of spirit? You have just described the Gospel. And if you have this humble recognition of God as the ultimate Enabler, you have great things ahead of you. You will never again be satisfied with quickie shortcuts to spirituality. Down and down and down you go, an irreversible downward spiral, until only His strength is seen in you.
Well, all of this probably sounds very paternal, but after all, it is Father's Day tomorrow. Please do enter Henry's free book giveaway before it is too late, and otherwise do try to stay out of trouble.
Friday, June 15
8:08 PM This has been a very successful day. In the first place I survived another day of manual labor and I can say that the work was not easy but it certainly is a satisfaction to know that I didn't break anything all day long. Thanks to your unceasing prayers for Becky she too had a wonderful day, full of vim and vigor, with only some bone pain to remind her of her recent chemo treatment. Tomorrow I'm scheduled to help our plumber (who schedules me, anyway?) and will have to start work at around 7:30, so there is "no rest for the weary." This is certainly a healthy physical regiment and it will do me a lot of good if it does not kill me first. There are quite a few good blog posts I've run across this evening but none more interesting to me than Henry Neufeld's Have You Ever Crossed the Street?, in which he bemoans the fact that he had not read Crossing the Street before he crossed the street. (You can't figure out what he's saying unless you read his post.)
Well, I'd best relax a bit and get ready for tomorrow. I've taken the oath of allegiance to assisting the construction work on the farm in any fashion others deem most useful, and so you will not find me complaining -- much. I will never be one of the big ducks on our team, of course, but it is teaching me humility which is a very good thing.
7:38 AM If work seems slow at the ministry house it's only because we are still in the preparation phase of construction.
We've torn out the flooring and are now working on replacing rotted boards and leveling the floor.
Also, the space between the kitchen and the dining room area has been opened up, making one large room.
We've also got the air conditioning units to install, and we'll need to sand blast the exposed beams to bring back their original color.
We've ordered the kitchen cabinets and appliances; they should be here in about 3 weeks. God continues to supply our needs for materials, labor, and purchases, and Becky is feeding us like kings each day.
By the way, if you're looking for appliances, you might want to check out number1direct.com. Their home page has a vision statement about serving Christ. There are no sales taxes or delivery fees. Becky decided on an appliance (based on features and price range), then compared the exact same model with Lowe's and other online stores, and Goedeker's was always less expensive. And there is a 30-day price guarantee; if within 30 days of the purchase you find the appliance anywhere else, even on sale in one of their own stores, they will refund the difference.
7:08 AM Here's a powerful piece by Ted Grimsrud: Jesus and family. A few excerpts:
The price of obedience to the Father is high. It could cost you your family. For some of you, it already has. We may be earnestly seeking to be obedient to Him but we may be missing the fact that it is often in our families that we learn to obey Him the most. Jesus was rejected by those closest to Him. If He had refused baptism at the hands of John the Baptizer He might have found life easier but He would have forfeited joy. The thing He longed for, the joy of His life, was pleasing His heavenly Father. Quite naturally, that obedience came at a high price. Can you imagine the heartache He felt? Can you and I fathom the depth of His love for us, His brothers and sisters? We live because He died to family.
Christianity is not an insurance policy against familial heartache. Its price is often separation.
Would you say that price is too high?
Thursday, June 14
8:10 PM Craig Bennett offers his list of television series he likes. Craig, I might add Hawaii 5-O and Magnum PI, both filmed on Oahu, "my" island. Am I correct in thinking there was once a series that was filmed in Australia? If not, I'll have to be content with The Man from Snowy River with its spectacular scenery and music.
Love these lines:
How true, how true indeed.
6:30 PM I love that Dave Black. Dave worked for 9 hours today, taking only a half hour off for lunch. That means he was on his feet a total of 8 and a half hours.
I think I need to start paying him.
7:56 AM As I read Kevin Brown's latest update from Mexico/Texas I was impressed again at how important sacrificial living is as we try to flesh out our Christianity. Kevin notes:
Wow! Here are men and women helping others, motivated solely by the love of Christ. The heart that has no agenda but God's agenda is always known for its "work of faith" and "labor of love" (see 1 Thess. 1:3, a verse I read in my morning devotions today). The GNB puts it this way: "We remember before God our Father how you put your faith into practice [and] how you made your love work so hard." What a perfect description of ministry. It takes genuine faith to cleanse our hearts of selfishness in all its subtle forms. I cannot look at your inmost faith, but I can see your works. I cannot see your love, apart from your labor. The truly Christian heart says, with Isaiah, "Here I am. Send me." God requires us to act.
If we begin each day with the complete offering of ourselves to God and with an acknowledgement that we are totally and completely dependent upon Him, He will certainly use us.
So ... off I go for another day's grueling work, sore hip and all. In every task assigned to us we are co-laborers with Christ, and our help affects the Body of Christ and, by extension, the whole world. And He gets all the credit, since He has done it through us!
Wednesday, June 13
8:40 PM Lookie here. Bec just picked the first zucchini of the year.
And the yellow squash aren't far behind.
Thankful to the Lord of the harvest.
7:49 PM Guess what I cooked for supper tonight? That's right -- with my "secret ingredient," of course. Two days of hard labor have me feeling a bit tired -- and very hungry. I think of myself as an old plough horse:
Not going to the Kentucky Derby, but not going to the glue factory either.
5:33 PM In four short weeks our team leaves for Ethiopia again. I'm really going to miss visiting Burji as originally planned, but I won't regret spending the entire trip in Alaba. I'll never forget Zemete who needed fistula surgery, or Tesfai whose 8-year old daughter was beheaded because he was a follower of Jesus, or Mohammed who became my son even though he had murdered a Christian, or Demissie our faithful bus driver, or our miracle child, Baby Nathan. The story of Christianity is the story of God's mysterious ways with individual people. I say "mysterious" because who would ever have thought that I'd have come to know these precious saints? God's work in the soul is often hidden, like yeast. Deeper and deeper must be the dying. Like the seeds in Becky's garden beds, we must die or we will never produce the fruit. Even dead carcasses enrich the soil of our farm. This is what missions is all about. Death brings new life. Those who accept the challenge, those who obey the command to go ("but, really, isn't that for someone other than me?"), receive not only the promise of eternal life but the reality of heaven on earth, where Jesus still serves humanity through His Body. I gather from the number of students who talk to me about this issue that missional living is an object of growing desire among their generation. I do not know what to say to them. The question is what to do. Our thinking cannot merely be theoretical.
So ... what does it mean to be a Christian? Why am I here? Is it for nothing? Or is there a Purpose? With terms like Luke 9:23, there will never be a stampede to join the Team. The requirements for discipleship are very much like the marriage vows I took 35 years ago: impossible to keep, apart from a divine miracle.
As the time approaches when we leave for Africa, these questions will become even more real to me. Where, ultimately, is my heart? Where is my real home? My home is where Christ is. I will find my place of service wherever He roams. Somehow, amazingly, my life fits into His plans for the world. And His strong promise cheers me on: "Remember, I am with you each and every day, even until the end of the age."
5:12 PM Just put in my hours working on the house. I figure I saved us $170 by helping today and not hiring out my portion of the labor. Thank you, Lord, for the strength to work!
8:10 AM You've heard of Memorial Day and Veterans Day and Mothers Day. Well, the women at Bethel Hill have declared this Sunday (which also happens to be Fathers Day) as "Hat Day." Here's the hat B will be wearing, along the material she will use to sew her new matching dress. Can't wait!
8:00 AM I am so excited about what the Lord Jesus is doing in my local church. A revolution is taking place -- a new revolution that has to take place if our church is to thrive and fulfill the Cause of Causes. And it's not about the abolition of the clergy. It's about the abolition of the laity. We are all sent on mission by the living Christ. My book The Jesus Paradigm studied this new revolution, this downward path of Jesus. I wish I could give away free copies to every believer. My goal in writing the book -- and the goal of godly leadership -- is to turn an audience into an army. Bethel Hill Baptist Church, possibly like your church, hasn't needed renewal. It's needed "newal." When the world, and not the church, becomes the playing field, and when "the church" is no longer synonymous with "my pastor," we are on the threshold of a wonderful future. Jesus accepts us but calls us to shape up. He is the ultimate Man of La Mancha. He looks at Aldonza the Harlot and renames her Dulcinea, My Lady. What grace!
Tuesday, June 12
8:40 PM Odds and ends ...
1) Here's Becky's latest quilt. A beaut!
2) Had a wonderful phone conference today with one of my Ph.D. students who serves Jesus in Santiago, Chile. So grateful for our doctoral cohort designed for field missionaries.
3) Good essay here: A Christian Pacifist Response to World War II.
4) I see they're bringing back the series "Dallas" on June 13. Before you know it, they'll be bringing back "I Dream of Jeannie." While you're at it, Hollywood, how about resurrecting Hogan's Heroes, F-Troop, and McHale's Navy?
5) Allan Bevere's latest blog post is a real winner: Grade Inflation: It's Cause and Consequences. (A slight demurral: It's "Its" and not "It's.")
I always tell my students, "If you're unhappy with your grade you are most welcome to come and see me in my office. I'm always happy to lower it."
6) I worked 7 hours of construction today. Not bad for an old geezer.
7:02 PM As you may know, Becky and I are currently remodeling the kitchen and downstairs bathroom in our antebellum home on the farm that we will use as a house for guests, furloughing missionaries, seminary families who may need housing, elders' retreats, etc. Our farm is nicely suited to spiritual retreating as it is literally on the way to nowhere. Now don't think of Scarlett O'Hara when you think of Rosewood Farm. Our guest house is a very functional 2 over 2 with an extension. It's a happy place that smiles at you when you see it. The floor beams we removed today date back to ca. 1820, and I even found these original pegs.
There is nothing more rewarding than restoring an old beauty, especially if it's for a good cause. Helping us with the renovation is our friend Robbie, a 2005 graduate of Southeastern. He's jumped at the chance of mentoring Nigusse. I love watching this modern-day example of discipleship -- Robbie the Rabbi patiently instructing his "disciple" (trainee) who is eager to do everything by himself. We are called to be mentors like Jesus. Mentoring is different from teaching (it's not just about knowing something) and it's different from training (it's not just about learning how to do something). Mentoring involves teaching and training but is mostly about showing someone how to be something -- in this case, a skilled carpenter. If you've got a mentor in your life, consider yourself blessed. I'm excited to see where all of this leads. We'd like to have the house ready before the end of summer.
Monday, June 11
9:13 PM Bec had a great chemo treatment today. Thanks for praying. I just enjoyed a piece of my delicious birthday cake -- chocolate, of course. Right now it's time to dig into my new Jeff Shaara novel as the rain gently falls on southern Virginia, watering our plants and fields. Grateful for little blessings.
5:55 PM There's been a bit of talk lately about the role of women in the Body of Christ. I've expressed my views here, but would like to add this personal note. I imagine Priscilla's role in the church would have been shocking for many in the first century. Becky is my Priscilla. She is a spiritual powerhouse, and I want to see her use the gifts and brain that God has given her to the Nth degree. Becky is a pillar of the church. She's a great role model. She is a leader among leaders. One minute she's sewing her own dresses and the next minute she's addressing an audience of several hundred. She has been a successful businesswoman, investment advisor, ICU nurse, public speaker, missionary, mentor, and wife and mother. She has more "adopted" children in the faith than you can shake a stick at. She is not the woman "behind" me. We are truly equals. We put our total and complete energy into working for Jesus' kingdom. We walk side by side. We share the Ethiopia ministry in a way that is, I believe, healthy and God-honoring. She is loved and respected by all Ethiopians, from the highest leaders in the churches to the humblest household servant.
Becky does not see mothering or wifing as her highest calling. Becky's highest calling, and mine, is to be an obedient follower of the Lord Jesus in every area of life. She loves me and needs me, but marriage does not define her as a person. I respect her as my equal partner of the grace of life which she is. We both cook, we both clean, we both speak up at church, we both buy groceries. We pray together, suffer together, and laugh together. My greatest desire as her husband is to see her become the woman that God created her to be. Her strong sense of stewardship and her determination to accomplish her God-given goals are assets that I greatly admire. I could go on and on. Becky is strong and tough and gentle and gracious and brilliant and talented and affirming and funny and beautiful and capable and more than able to stand on her own two feet. She's my Phoebe and my Priscilla all rolled into one person. I thank God for giving me -- and the church -- this precious gift. So deep is her love for people – the unlovely included – that she puts me to shame, and has done so for 35 years. One cannot come away from an encounter with her without having learned a great truth about the Lord Jesus: He has a huge heart.
Husband, celebrate your wife. Join her in the great work of serving others. Together, you can have a Great Commission Marriage. But it won't come automatically. It's a choice you must make -- together.
3:21 PM Alan Knox has linked to a new blog about church life. I've checked it out. Won't you?
12:13 PM Steve Scott's latest essay is a real winner: Evangelicalism: Government Programs vs. Church Programs. Steve points out the irony that those Christians who want smaller and smaller government are often the same Christians who want more and bureaucracy in the church. In my book The Jesus Paradigm I referred to this as the "FDR-ing of the church." Steve writes:
The problem, as I see it, is that we have the Gospel treasure in "earthen vessels" but confuse faithfulness to the Gospel with the cultural forms in which we received it. We mistake the vessel for the treasure, and the result is an Anglo-American Christianity that is a cultural adaptation of original biblical Christianity. This calls for, says Steve, a willingness to preserve whatever is within God's will and change what is not. We do not really honor the Lord, I suspect, by blindly perpetuating traditions or by imposing secular ideals on the church.
7:37 AM Here's another excellent post on gay marriage that I stumbled upon yesterday: Evangelicals and the Gay Marriage Debate. The author, Joel Rainey, identifies four mistakes evangelicals have made in dealing with the issue of homosexuality:
1) Our early treatment of the homosexual community.
2) Our own perversion of marriage.
3) Our capitulation to the idea of marriage as a "right."
4) We allowed "toleration" to be confused with "affirmation."
I believe there is a bright future for the evangelical church in this area if we heed Joel's advice. It is important to recognize that the acceptance he speaks of is not passivity or capitulation to evil. It is an act of faith, a placing of oneself at one with the kingdom of God and His will, of overcoming evil with good. We have been shown the way on every page of the life of Jesus.
7:30 AM Looking ahead: Meeting with our carpenter this morning .... Becky has a doctor's appointment and then another chemo session at UNC ... Ethiopia team meeting at Cresset Baptist Church this evening. Excitement is building for our July trip.
7:20 AM I simply had to smile when I read this piece over at the Honolulu Magazine because it's so true. Hawaii was a great place to grow up, but as an adult you work your fingers to the bone without much time left over for enjoying the delights of the Islands.
Life in Hawaii is probably unaffordable for most of us. The only way I could live there is if I were a fulltime beach bum.
Now that's an idea....
Sunday, June 10
8:34 PM My thanks to Julia Hall of the Durham Herald Sun for a wonderful write up of last week's graduation service for Cresset Christian High, where I had the honor of delivering the commencement address. Folks, life is all about serving Jesus sacrificially, whatever our age may be. Please do not wait as long as I did to learn this lesson.
8:02 PM Kevin Brown is one of our stalwart missionaries to Ethiopia, but occasionally we loan him to Mexico or Texas. You can read his updates during his church's current mission trip here. Praise God for what He is doing in and through your team, Kevin! Thanks for your passion for global missions and for leading your congregation in the downward path of Jesus! God bless you!
7:45 PM Jacob Cerone is an up-and-coming scholar of the New Testament. And he loves the famous Scottish Bible commentator John Eadie, as I do. I too love reading commentators who quote the fathers -- in the original Greek and Latin. Lenski and Barth were also good at this. Jacob's post is a clarion call for all of us to get back to the original sources. (The Reformers called this "ad fontes.") I would say the best commentaries, for me personally, are those that combine vim and vigor with independent thinking and the abundant use of original sources. Eadie's commentaries nicely blend scholarship with spirituality. If the writing borders on the "dry" side it's only because it's commentary and not frivolous entertainment. If you expect Eadie to offer excellent exegesis of texts, you will not be disappointed. I am not a huge fan of buying up commentaries, but I do have several of John Eadie's on my bookshelf. Kudos to Eadie for his excellent commentaries, and kudos to Jacob for insisting on "ad fontes."
7:26 PM Wonderful day today. Nigusse spoke from John 3:16-18 at Union Chapel (God's sacrificial love, and God's saving love). Nigu's messages are always so faithful to the text yet at the same time so practical in their application. Then I was treated to a birthday dinner at the famous Abyssinia Restaurant in Raleigh. Never has Ethiopian food tasted better. My thanks to Tegeyn and Genet for their wonderful hospitality. It was like being back in Addis, replete with incense and a delightful coffee ceremony. Genet even asked Becky to pour some of the coffee. Why not -- Becky IS Ethiopian.
10:27 AM Got this birthday email:
Everyone's a comedian.
10:23 AM As a result of her chemo, Becky is very susceptible to bleeding. Her legs look like a war zone. Please pray that no infections develop. Thank you. More chemo tomorrow, Lord willing.
10:18 AM Good morning, friends. It so happens I've spent the whole night thinking about my birthday 60 years ago. What is to be done with one's past? Here's what I'm discovering.
As Christ's power changes us within, the world around us begins to change too. Only as we say no to self can we say yes to unhypocritical love. For me, today, my gradual change from a reflexive negativism toward my father to an emotionally honest recognition that he was a human being with flaws and failures (just like me) represents nothing less than Christ's healing power. Whatever pain my parents' divorce released into my life, the person the two of them created is something to shout about. My favorite promise in the Bible is Rom. 8:28. It jolts me back to reality. Jonah prays to the Lord and the fish spits him out. This is the "sign" Jesus talked about when He wanted to describe His death and resurrection. Evil may swallow good, but only for a while; ultimately its digestion always fails. No one on earth has such power to hurt as a parent or a spouse or a child. To love is to be vulnerable to that power, to accept the pain, to willingly open ourselves up to the inevitable suffering, to refuse to be "safe." To love is to surrender all rights to a "happy" life. To love is to see purpose behind and above it all -- life out of death is the great MO of the Spirit. So whenever an old wound or a gray glumness begins to pull me down, I cling to that sure promise: In Christ all suffering is the prelude to growth. And we begin by accepting our past for what it is: a disguised blessing. Only in the context of generational healing can any of us make true progress.
It has taken me a long time to learn this lesson. I've hardly mastered it yet. But my understanding of suffering has been transformed forever. The focus now is not on the loss. I see my past as a precious gift God has given to me to give back to Him so that He can transform it into something beautiful.
Saturday, June 9
8:47 PM Before calling it a night I want to thank you for all those wonderful birthday emails you sent me today. I don't deserve your friendship but I sure do appreciate it. Thanks again, and God richly bless you. Dave
6:35 PM Odds and ends ...
1) Having tried and tried and tried, I was so relieved when Keith Clayton stopped by today and was able to fix my hot water dispenser. Keith will be doing the plumbing on our ministry house, but he was eager to help me solve my conundrum. I think he deserves a medal for figuring it out.
2) I never get tired of the farm. I snapped this photo today for no particular reason, except that I have the fondest memories of helping my son build each one of these out buildings you see here.
Farm work is definitely hard work, but nothing can quite top the satisfaction of seeing the work of your own hands as God gave you the energy, the know-how, and the assistance of others to add something of significance to the place where you live.
3) Finally, since it's my BD I thought I'd show you pictures of my mother and father, John and Elvera Black. Here's my father holding yours truly.
Dad was born in Honolulu in 1918. He was inducted into the U.S. Army in November of 1941. He met my mother in a USO club in Youngstown, Ohio while being shipped off to fight the Germans in Europe. Mother was the youngest of 10 and the only sibling to be born in the U.S. (the rest were all born in Romania).
After the war they were married and settled down on Oahu, where I was born in 1952, the youngest of four. Sadly, their marriage would only last another 3 years, and I would never know my father while growing up.
Marvin Eisenstadt, writing in the American Psychologist, once published a piece called "Parental Loss and Genius." In it he stated that the loss of one or both of your parents in childhood, either through death or divorce, is nothing less than traumatic. Some children, he said, are broken for life as a result. However, other children, he said, through a process of "creative mourning," actually became more capable and more successful in life than they would have been had they not lost a parent through death or divorce. Either way, it's a make it break it situation, I'd say.
If you, dear reader, have lived through such a painful separation, I feel your sorrow. There is hardly a day that goes by that I am not consciously aware of the loss, the sadness, the "what ifs." Larry Crabb once made the statement, "In the happiest of Christian lives there are deep pockets of incurable pain." Very true. Jesus said, "My peace I give unto you." Also very true. If you have struggled, as I have, with low self-esteem because of a divorce or the death of one of your parents, I can promise you that Christ is sufficient to see you though those deep pockets of pain. And yes, they are incurable. The scars will never go away, but give them time and they will scab over. Believe me.
4:24 PM Hello there cyber-friends! I started working this morning at 7:30 and finished at 3:15, with a short break for lunch. (Becky brought the "lunch wagon" to Maple Ridge with lots of goodies for everyone.) Here are a few pix of your friendly neighborhood air conditioning unit installation team. (In German that would all be one word.)
Special thanks to Ed and Jason for their sacrificial help! You guys are the greatest!
But the BIG NEWS in these here parts is that it's somebody's birthday today, and the birthday girl just happens to be none other than Miss Mercy Magdalene Rondeau, born this day one year ago:
I thought that was way too cool when God gave this grandpa the joy of sharing his birthday with Mercy's. What an honor! Now Mercy, do you see that we have just finished preparing the sand box? Do come and visit us soon and try it out, will you?
And just for fun, here are a couple of photos of your Papa B when he was a wee little thing like you. I hope to see you soon, birthday girl!
Friday, June 8
8:34 PM Hay, hay, what do ya say?
Tomorrow: Installing air conditioning in an ante-bellum home.
10:45 AM Puzzle update:
She's making headway.
7:56 AM The people who came to help us yesterday were awfully nice. Miss Gianna said to Becky, "I'm working and yet I'm having so much fun." "Yes," said Becky, "that's what it's like when you're helping others." The men did a very fine job of completing most of their projects, as did the ladies. It's been a long time since I worked so hard (like about 2 days), but needless to say I'm so grateful to God for giving us such willing and capable helpers. Our relationship together is heaven-made. When you belong to Jesus, you also belong to all others who are in Jesus. This is such a blessed unity that God had to arrange it. In Hawaii we often spoke about the local church as our "ohana" (family). Sonya (from Hawaii) had a T-shirt on that had the words Kokua Crew. I thought, "What a great name for the Body of Christ: Helping Crew!" The word kokua can also be translated "help, aid, assistance, relief, assistant, associate, deputy, helper; co-operation; to help, assist, support, accommodate."
Folks, we will only have unity in the Body of Christ when we have relational unity, when we are helping and serving each other. If you attempt to unify people solely around a doctrinal creed you will fail every time. Once you get everybody to agree to 7 years somebody changes their view to 3 and a half years and then somebody changes their view to zero years, and eventually everyone gets upset because the "unity" of the group is threatened. Now, I am not against a polity or a creed, but you will only get unity of spirit by having the Spirit. Yesterday, all of us were one as worked on the ministry house. Our unity was not centered in the fact that we are all Baptists (though we are) or in a confessional statement or in a theological creed. Our oneness is a way of life for us to enjoy by serving each other in Christ. Jesus Christ demands doctrinal purity. Jesus Christ also demands a lifestyle of relationships. And we're to guard that unity, preserve it, keep it (Eph. 4:3.) I would say much more but I feel like a broken record.
As promised, pictures:
1) Our crew (left to right): Becky Lynn, Karen, June, Gianna, Sonya, Elias, Jayson (who with his wife Sonya lived on Oahu), Nigusse, Shawn, and Chelsea.
2) The paint crew:
3) The sewing team:
4) Et voila!
5) A nice addition to the porch don't you think?
6) The rafter sanding crew:
7) The French drain crew:
8) Filling it in:
9) The tree stump removal team:
10) The gravel team:
11) It just needs smoothing out today:
12) Gianna enjoying Becky's donks:
13) Elias at our farm cemetery. This gravestone says "ANDERSON BOYD, CORP. 59 VA INF C. S. A. " Boyd was the former owner of our farm.
Once again, thanks to all who came yesterday. We thoroughly enjoyed your fellowship in the Spirit and appreciated your labor of love!
Thursday, June 7
8:58 PM Well we have completed our work day and B and I can hardly walk -- except from the car to the Chinese buffet and back again, that is. It was certainly a wonderful day. I will have a full report tomorrow. Right now it is dusk and I am watching the bats coming out of our bat house and the dogs chasing the donkeys. Time to pick up a good book and gel, don't you think? See ya tomorrow.
7:42 AM Just snapped these pix:
1) How do like our "new" front porch? Beautiful ain't it? My thanks to Becky for painting and arranging it so nicely. We LOVE sitting here night and day.
2) Earlier this morning Becky remarked to me, "Aren't spider webs really something?" They are indeed. Here's one built between our porch spindles. A work of real art, don't you think?
Hope you're enjoying "Dave Black Photography, Inc."
7:20 AM Brian Fulthorp made this phenomenal statement on his blog recently: "learning German ... not necessarily theological either." He has got it SO right. Theology students, don't learn theological German. Learn German. How to speak it, read it, preach in it even. Nothing will reinforce language learning like an active knowledge of the language.
7:12 AM Our project list for today includes ... sand rafters/remove nails ... remove subflooring ... remove stove ... put in French drain ... remove 2 bushes ... level brick hill ... move gravel into lean-to and hay storage ... install tree swing ... paint porch step railings ... sew cushion covers and chair toppers ... spread hay around fruit trees ... and gather up fire wood.
Care to join us?
7:06 AM Congratulations to my Ed.D. student Thomas Hudgins for being half way there.
7:02 AM You will love this quote by Paul Barnett:
NO GO, NO LO! Isn't that great? You will enjoy Paul's entire essay. It's called Make Disciples.
6:55 AM As Ray Bradbury is being eulogized, much is being made of his sensational novel Fahrenheit 451, which presents an America where all books are banned.
Think of it! How could we survive without books? I read, like most of you, vociferously. I have read since I was a child (the Hardy Boys never had an adventure without me in it). There are writers who once tumbled the world upside down for me -- Barth, Bonhoeffer, Trueblood, Ellul -- whom I no longer read with the same youthful innocence. I could easily add Carson, Fee, Marshall, and Wright. When I'm bored I still find refuge in Shaara or McInnis. If I were on a desert island and could have only one book with me, it would of course be my Greek New Testament -- the most fascinating book ever put between covers. Yet I suspect I could never survive on a desert island without books (plural).
A nation in which books are banned? That's not a country but a catastrophe.
Wednesday, June 6
7:42 PM So what have I done today? Filled in pot holes. Made two more trips to get sand. Sprayed weeds. And took this picture. I don't think I've ever seen prettier clouds or a nicer shade of blue.
It's time to eat supper and then rest up for tomorrow's marathon of farm projects.
1:05 PM This has got to one of the best posts ever written by Al Mohler: Southern Baptists and Salvation: It's Time to Talk. The heart of his message?
Incidentally, the SBC convention in New Orleans is almost upon us, and things are really buzzing. Of course, as you may have observed in the news, Southern Baptists are poised to elect the first African-American as president of the convention. Frankly I think he has a great chance of getting in, and I think this will bode well for us as long as it does not devolve into tokenism. I don't know about you, but I long to see a new cross-cultural Pentecost in place of the current ecclesiastical Babel.
1:00 PM It's great to see Mark at Theological German blogging again. His is a wonderful website, especially if you are just learning German. Right now he's exploring the theology of Adolph Schlatter. Welcome back, Mark.
11:15 AM So it's my 60th birthday on Saturday. We're starting work that day at 7:30 so in case I don't have time to reflect then I'll bemuse you today. To be honest, I'm rather enjoying being "old." It's neat to be settled. I suppose I've become one of those sedate old curmudgeons whom I used to despise so wholesomely in my youth. I no longer think I have life all figured out, and I'm enjoying my ignorance fully.
Life has been full and satisfying for me, despite the heartaches I've experienced. Why, if God had eliminated all the problems I've encountered since I first met Him in 1960, He would also have eliminated all of the blessings which they bore in my life. In many ways (I won't reveal the details -- only my wife will be able to read all that is written between the lines) more than once I've been stripped of the object of some passion that had shut out God. It's what C. S. Lewis once called a severe mercy. My heart has constantly needed purifying because the objects of my affections have so often been inordinate. If God is not first in our hearts, if we do not love Him supremely, all our other loves easily morph into self-gratification. Yet even God's severity is merciful, and from an eternal perspective I can say with the apostle Paul, "Our troubles are slight and short-lived." The Seen is not the only story and certainly not the end of the story.
As I take stock of my life -- like Robinson Crusoe with his battered ship -- it is clear that I might have avoided some of my problems and kept a straighter course if it were not for the perpetual struggle between vocation and avocation. All of life is to be lived for Him, and where there is no abandonment to Him it is not to be wondered at that our lives easily drift along aimlessly. I have discovered that in offering us the kingdom of heaven Jesus was offering a very narrow road and a great deal of suffering. He did not offer immunity from pain. He simply asked for trust in the midst of it. And so I trust. As I said, I am glad, at 60, to give up any pretensions of wisdom. The mysteries of life are far beyond my powers of understanding. It is enough to do my part and make my contribution, then watch them go downstream with all of the others. My strength now is to sit still and accept that things are what they are, and that God will not be hurried. Books I would have like to have written I now leave cheerfully to younger and stouter scholars. As for what I have written, I've believed everything I've said, then and now. Indeed, when there is work to do on the farm I do not even take time to write. Though an academic, I find myself enjoying the company of common folk more than scholars. The trouble is that I can predict with a fair amount of certainty what the professors are going to say, while the others are always surprising me. To be a Christian is to make the kind of choices that bring us into an ever-increasing harmony with our fellow Christians regardless of their social status or education. Jesus found the greatest joy while serving among the common people. In my moments of loneliness I try to remember that it is only the seed that falls into the ground that has potential for life giving. It is for this reason that I got into the Great Commission business several years ago. It has changed my entire outlook on life and revealed to me the glory of suffering with Christ in His redemptive work on earth. I know this sounds like an overdramatization. But if Paul could complete in his flesh the full tale of Christ's sufferings, may we not also do that?
"Make me a cake," said Elijah to the widow. There is something all of us can do for God. Is my 61st year the little cake you need from me, Lord? Then I'll gladly bake it for you.
Below: On my way to church after my conversion at the age of 8.
10:38 AM So glad we're having a Student Work Day at the farm tomorrow. Would hate to have to spread all this gravel by myself.
10:29 AM Check out Loeb online!
8:47 AM Do you play a musical instrument and are looking for a summer ministry? Perhaps you should consider Eurobrass. It is a wonderful organization, and I speak from personal experience. Growing up in Hawaii I had a streak of indolence that was unconquerable. Nevertheless, I began playing the trumpet in grade school and never stopped until my high school graduation. It seemed to me that I would give anything to lead my trumpet section -- except work for it. Yet I must have practiced more or less, for when I was a high school senior I served as first trumpet, first chair in the All Hawaii Band. After my marriage Becky and I took our first mission trip together to (West) Germany, and it was there that I played the trumpet in what was then called Eurocorps. It was pure delight. That's us below, playing an evangelistic concert on a windy afternoon at the Baltic. (I'm third from left.)
So do consider using your musical gifts for the Lord on the mission field. And perhaps Eurobrass might be a good place to start.
7:52 AM CNN offers 10 things to do on Oahu for $10 or less. They are:
1) Take "TheBus."
2) Taste Hawaiian cuisine.
3) Climb Diamond Head.
4) Pick up souvenirs at the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet.
5) Visit Pearl Harbor.
6) Eat shave ice.
7) Cheer as surfer dudes conquer the Banzai Pipeline.
8) Get lost is awe at "Lost" locations.
9) Tour the Dole Plantation.
10) Slurp some noodles.
As a native of Oahu, I might add these ten:
1) Get windblown at the Pali Lookout -- the best view of Windward Oahu.
2) Visit Punchbowl -- the Cemetery of the Pacific.
3) Go snorkeling at Hanauma Bay -- and swim with the fish and eels.
4) Climb Mount Olomana -- but be careful; it's a long way down.
5) Enjoy breakfast at King's Hawaiian Bakery -- Becky and I especially loved their buttermilk pancakes on our honeymoon.
6) Take a long walk on Kailua Beach -- the world's most pristine beach.
7) Eat dinner in the sky at the La Ronde restaurant -- and watch the sun set over Waianae.
8) Visit the Iolani Palace -- plenty of Hawaiian history here.
9) Take a surfing lesson at Waikiki Beach -- even if you never stand up the experience is worth it.
10) Have a plate lunch -- my favorite growing was spare ribs with "two scoop" rice and macaroni salad. Help me -- I'm drooling!
What are your favorite sites on Oahu?
Tuesday, June 5
8:03 PM Boy did we work Nigusse today. He spent 4 hours Skyping with Alaba, then 2 hours helping his mom, then 2 hours assisting his dad pick up sand for the back yard sand box.
He did get three square meals today, however, as a compensation :-)
Nigu, take the rest of the day off.
1:55 PM Quote of the day (Arthur Sido with reference to Mark 16:9-20 and snake handling):
1:52 PM Did you know that golf written backwards spells flog? Makes good sense to me. I have never picked up a golf club and never will.
1:40 PM If you're aspiring to leadership, the following story may interest you. During the Battle of Chancellorsville, General John Gordon had just been put in charge of a brigade of infantry under Jubal Early.
He assembled his troops and called on every man to follow him up Marye's Heights. The response was unanimous. Gordon told them, "Wait until you get close to the heights. Let every man raise a yell and take those heights. Will you do it? I ask you to go no farther than I am willing to lead!" On that order they all stepped off, Gordon at the head, to retake the heights from the Federals.
Now that's leadership. "I ask you to go no farther than I am willing to lead!"
8:30 AM Good morning blogdom!
I just finished taking the chain saw to some branches that were hampering a person from taking a nice enjoyable country walk down to the Valley Field, and the ticks were very pleased with my visit. I pulled 6 of them off me before showering. They are now enjoying all the comforts of our septic drain field. Becky is touching up the porch with her ever-ready paint brush, and Nigusse is getting ready to Skype with Ethiopia. Some changes are in store for our July trip and the details demand attention. Looking ahead ... we're having another student work day on Thursday ... I'm celebrating my birthday on Saturday by helping an electrician install air conditioning units in one of our houses ... Nigusse is speaking this Sunday at Union Chapel Baptist Church ... I am purchasing my county sticker (being the good and upright citizen that I am).
Off to the DMV....
Monday, June 4
7:50 PM Here's a list of Amazon's Best Books on D-Day (June 6, 1944), which we commemorate in just two days. The best one in my opinion is Cornelius Ryan's The Longest Day. Of the late Stephen Ambrose's 30 or so books, his D-Day is my least favorite. It is poorly researched and contains numerous errors.
By the way, the movie "The Longest Day" has now been colorized and is available on You Tube. Here's a scene from the original black-and-white version (showing General von Rundstett).
7:11 PM Glad to report that Becky had another good chemo session today at UNC. As for me, my headache is now gone entirely. I have taken the day off from doing any work and feel exceedingly virtuous as a result. Of the many farm projects we are currently working on is this one: how to keep the robins from building their nests on our newly painted porch. Nothing we've read about seems to really work -- though we might try installing mirrors so that Mama Robin thinks someone else has already built in her desired spot. How about school? I won't teach again until summer school (July 29), but I've got Ph.D. and Th.M students to mentor this summer, and as always I've got writing to do. I'm afraid that the lure of publishing has found an easy and willing victim in me. Not bad I guess for someone whose state of mental vacuity seems to be constantly augmenting.
Oh yes, tomorrow I have to renew my driver's license.
1:57 PM On this day in 1989 the Tiananmen Square massacre took place. Many of us watched the events on television in the days leading up to the government assault on the protestors. Who can ever forget this scene?
A young man stood his ground, and moved the world. I am reminded of what Paul told Timothy: "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young." Young person, it's so easy for us to get our eyes off of life's real purpose and on to secondary issues. Paul is telling you to be an example for the rest of us by raising the bar of commitment and service. He went so far as to say that his greatest concern in life was that "Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death" (Phil. 1:20). The only thing that matters in life is that we advance God's agenda on this earth, and that will take courage. But as far as Paul was concerned, things like success and popularity and even life itself were secondary.
The great evangelist Vance Havner once said, "We do not have to live; we only have to be faithful." For the Christian, to live is to stand up to the forces of this age, not with a rifle, but with unconditional, scandalous love.
12:30 PM I have long been absolutely convinced that there is no substitute for simple, straightforward biblical teaching in order to produce healthy churches and mature Christians. Biblical doctrine has a capacity, a dynamic found no place else. When biblical truth is understood and applied -- note the "and applied" -- we will be set from our errors and eccentricities. And what does the Scripture say about the kingdom? That it is flat. In Christ there is no East nor West, in Him no South nor North. Earlier I linked to a wonderful You Tube of the great English hymn For All the Saints. One verse reads:
What a wonderful truth this is! The kingdom of God is comprised of all the blood-bought saints from every nation -- a countless host all singing praises to the Triune God. Christians are not merely people who are trying to become God's children. They ARE members of the same family, the only Christian nation the world will ever know.
In the past month I have been in two church buildings that have flown the flags of the nations. They are flags that represent the nations in which the congregation is personally involved missionally.
It is my conviction that if all Christians, and especially those in America, could grasp this great truth, their churches would be wonderfully enriched. Our God is color-blind, status blind, wealth blind, and nation blind. It is not a little thing to fly only the American flag in our sanctuaries. Nor is it something that we need to do when there is a wonderful alternative that tells the world that ALL are welcome in our midst -- the Mexican migrant worker and the Asian businessman and the Arabic-speaking student. God has given the church a new spiritual wardrobe and he wants us to throw away the rotten rags we used to wear before we came to know Jesus. Now that we are Christians, what matters is not our nationality, our education, our wealth, but our allegiance to the King of kings. This is the mark of being a child of God. Is it a mark in your church?
11:12 AM As you know I spoke at the commencement service for a Christian high school on Saturday. My question today is this: Should we return Christian education to the local church at the adult level as well? Perhaps the most articulate defense of adult education in the local church was offered by that great Quaker scholar and educator Elton Trueblood, who wrote that "Education is too good to limit it to the young" and that "Adult education is the big thing in the church. It is not decoration, it is the centerpiece" (quoted in Richard Foster's essay "A life of Broad Strokes and Brilliant Hues," Christianity Today May 23, 1980, p. 20). Likewise, in his book Incendiary Fellowship he notes that "the congregation must, accordingly, be reconstructed into the pattern of a small theological seminary with the pastor as the professor" (p. 45).
What do you think?
From my limited experience, I see two dangers here. The first is that the church seminary will devolve into just another university-modeled, classroom-based institution that is content oriented at the expense of engagement in real ministry. The other danger is that the church seminary will become a place where only "ministry skills" are taught at the expense of serious theological engagement. I know about a church seminary in North Carolina that is just like SEBTS in that the students commute to school, sit in classes, and yet are not fully engaged in the life of that local church. Jesus never taught a course on "The Theology and Practices of the Pharisees." He engaged the Pharisees in real-life discussion (and confrontation, when necessary). Above all, in my opinion, we must avoid the professionalization of the church seminary. A professional is someone who can claim a body of knowledge not shared by others in the church. Once such a person is installed in ministry, he or she can easily begin to claim a monopoly on the church's functions and ministries.
So how should we go about developing a truly ecclesiastical model of adult education? That is a matter far beyond my experience and expertise.
8:52 AM Odds and ends ....
1) Last night I had one doozy of a headache. Chills too. I was sure it was another malaria attack, but Becky said let's wait it out and see in the morning. I'm feeling much better today but just what was that truck that hit me last night?
2) Can anyone resist reading an essay called Ten Reasons to Attend Seminary, especially when the author is none other than Scot McKnight? His ten reasons are all sound and good. I would have given the same list 10 years ago. Since then my priorities have changed.
If you'd care to read my essay, it's called The Purpose of a Seminary.
3) As I am a huge fan of the Anabaptists I completely agree with Arthur Sido's assessment of them: Anabaptism Is Not The Answer.
4) My good friend David Dockery, president of Union University (and with whom I co-edited two books), announces the publication of a new journal called Renewing Minds. The first issue includes articles by Scott Huelin ("Religio et Eruditio"), Jennifer Gruenke ("Faith and Science: Hard Questions") and Hunter Baker ("The State of Christian Higher Education"), Mark Schwehn ("The Liberal Arts"), and Paul House ("Making Christian Minds"). Congratulations to David and to Union on this milestone!
Sunday, June 3
1:33 PM "They appointed elders for them in each church, and with prayer and fasting commended these men to the Lord in whom they had believed" (acts 14:23). It has been done as the Lord Jesus has commanded. All praise to Him!
Since we have just recognized and affirmed the elders whom Jesus has granted us at The Hill, I thought I might list here a few of the responsibilities of the congregation toward their leaders. Taking 1 Thess. 5:12 and Heb. 13:7, 17 into consideration, I have come up with the following list. (It is hardly exhaustive.)
In short, our elders are men who are worthy of the greatest esteem from our church. Let us now do our part, my fellow Bethel Hillians.
To Jason, Ed, and Jason: Know that Becky, Nigusse, and I love you in the Lord and highly esteem you. We promise you our prayers and support as you lead our congregation into even greater steps of Scriptural obedience, for His name's sake and for the spread of the Good News around the world.
Saturday, June 2
6:18 PM My distaste for all formal ceremonies is well known, but commencement services are an exception to the rule, and today's was a phenomenal blessing to me as I watched 23 graduates receive their diplomas and launch out into the deep. I just love the curiosity, energy, and passion of young people, and so I offer a huge "Thank You" to Jon Glass for inviting me to share this special day with them.
I did my job (as I saw it) and taught from the Scriptures about what our "mission" in life ought to be. I suspect, however, that I was preaching as much to myself as to anyone else, and today I feel more convicted than ever that the Great Cause deserves my very BEST efforts. It is easy, I suppose, for a public speaker to delude himself as to the actual impression made upon the mind of his audience. People may listen courteously, but there is no "response meter" for the measurement of their hearts or their thoughts. That's all up to God. But the text sure spoke to me powerfully, and I was the speaker! There was a downside to today's events however. The expected and much anticipated conferral of an honorary doctorate upon the commencement speaker was apparently overlooked in all the hubbub, but I will forgive you, Jon, this one time.
Finally, just for laughs, here's yours truly just after he graduated from high school.
Can you believe it?
Non scholae sed vitae discimus,
8:42 AM Honored to speak today at Cresset Christian Academy's commencement. My message to the graduates today? Be like Jesus!
8:34 AM Yesterday the temperature was in the 90s. Today it's in the 70s. Did the Lord know I had to wear a suit today?
8:02 AM This year (June 9 to be exact) I'm celebrating the 39th anniversary of my 21st birthday, along with about 4 million other baby boomers, including the likes of Dan Aykroyd, Roseanne Barr, Liam Neeson, Vladimir Putin, David Hasselhoff, John Tesh, and the one and only Mr. T.
Everyone repeat after me: 60 is beautiful!
So what's it like to grow old?
Just beyond the reef at Kailua Bay where I was raised we teenagers often encountered some of the biggest and best surf in the Islands. Paddle out a mile or so and you will find plenty of waves and white water which call for enormous coolness and skill. As you take off you turn sharply either to the right or the left, and all at once you are in the heart of the beast, tucked beneath its giant curl.
For hours you enjoy the sets as they roll in from the horizon. It is growing late, too. Perhaps you've lingered too long to make it home in time for supper. But there will be plenty of time for food later. Eventually you paddle in and drag your tired body up onto the shore, carry your surfboard back home, eat supper, and in the twilight look back at the reef to see if the waves are still breaking. You watch as the darkness consumes the light of day, and with the darkness comes weariness and sleep. You turn in, only to dream of the wild and dangerous reef.
"Which things," wrote Paul, "are an allegory." A professor of Greek has almost reached the Shore. His long journey will one day come to an end, when he can rest and dream and think. But not now, not here. Perhaps if and when I turn 70 I will discover something profound to say about aging, some sage advice to pass on to the younger generation, though most of what I would say is already found in Cicero's De Senetute or the Book of Ecclesiastes. Some people desire retirement at my age, but I prefer to keep hanging around the beach and riding those monster waves, trying (in vain) to complete that unfinished magnum opus, maintaining my curiosity about this marvelous and crazy world in which we live, caught up in the eternal mundane spectacle we call Life.
Some day my exploits will be over.
But not now, not here.
Friday, June 1
8:51 PM Tens of thousands of hymns have been written throughout the ages but this has got to be the greatest English hymn ever composed.
Listening to it is like a little piece of heaven. The voices are truly angelic and simply incredible. See if you can keep from getting teary-eyed during the last stanza. Praise be to God!
6:14 PM Good evening, bloggers of the world! It's a cloudy, rainy, forbidding day. The tornado watch has been duly issued, and all eyes keep close watch on the radar. Isn't it wonderful to have a whole team of meteorologists doing nothing but tracking the latest storms?
Well, I have a confession to make. I'm going to Guyana in November and must tell you shame-facedly that I know next to nothing about that nation (except for Jim Jones). I have no excuse for my delinquency except for my upbringing in an abysmal public school system in the Islands. This morning I had a meeting on campus with one of my students, Mark Vasconcellos, who was born in Guyana and raised in Venezuela and who is leading our trip there this fall. Joining us in our meeting this morning was my esteemed colleague and friend Dr. Ant Greenham who once served as a consular agent for South Africa in both Tel Aviv and Amman and is the author of the new Energion release called The Questioning God.
I looked forward to our meeting today with evident anticipation, partly because this will be my very first trip to the continent of South America. I was delighted to learn of the many speaking and teaching opportunities that will be afforded Ant and me upon our arrival. Of course, this will all take place after my trip to Ethiopia this summer and my return to Asia in October. Though to be sure I enjoy my work here in the States, I deeply miss my second home in Ethiopia. The dreaded ennui is inevitable when you feel yourself making a giant effort to stay focused when your mind is 6,000 miles away. Also today I had a wonderful time with one of my Th.M. students who remarked to me that he was very impressed with my "busy-ness" in kingdom work. Believe me, I had to assure him that it has not always been this way. It is insidiously easy to lose one's sense of purpose in life and become just another cog in someone else's wheel house, like a circus pony who trots endlessly around in circles all the while thinking he is going somewhere. Hmm. That restless feeling that God has given you? Perhaps it's His way of moving you out your happy, contented mediocrity. I must confess, as un-American as it may seem, that I view the American Dream as the worst possible substitute for the joyous semi-isolation one experiences when traveling in Asia, Africa, or the Middle East. I mean, you can chuck the whole upward mobility thing as far as I'm concerned; I don't care much for the idols of the hour. My sinful nature, of course, still hankers after the leeks, garlic, and honey of Egypt, but I try to calm its passions by reminding it that the pleasure of serving Jesus is far greater. Other than that there is nothing new to report here except for one thing. Did anybody notice this about the recent National Spelling Bee?
I'm sorry, but isn't the word spelled schwärmerei? The German spelling contains an umlaut, which, I would think, either needs to be indicated or else spelled as "ae." Perhaps the word has been anglicized?
Keep the faith,