Katy Brown's essay
Is He Enough? is a reminder that mission work is far from glamorous.
Sometimes it's just plain dangerous for your health. She and her dad
know. Read her testimony about the faithfulness of God and be blessed.
If you live in Dallas, you will want to try the Ghion Restaurant on
Skillman Street. Never has Ethiopian food tasted better, especially the
"tibs." Tell them I said so.
How we live out our
finite, weak, and sinful understanding of greatness reveals that we
don’t really believe Jesus’ understanding of greatness. In the
Kingdom if we want to move upward we must in reality move downward
to wash the feet of others. Christ modeled true greatness for us. We
just must believe in Him and follow.
(Note: I'm partial to the author; he's
in my Mark class.)
If you are a Civil War buff (as I am you) have probably seen the movie
Gettysburg starring Martin Sheen as Robert E. Lee and Jeff
Daniels as Joshua Chamberlain. There's an unforgettable scene that takes
place on the first day of battle. Union cavalry General John Reynolds is
in the copula of the Lutheran Theological Seminary when General John
Reynolds of the Union I Corps rides up. "Thank God," says a tearful
Buford. "What goes, John?" asks Reynolds. "There's a devil to pay,"
replies Buford. "Can you hold?" inquires Reynolds. "I reckon I can,"
says Buford. At this point, Buford descends from the copula and the two
generals ride off toward the sound of battle on McPherson's Ridge.
like this ever happened. As General Reynolds, at the head of the Union I
Corps, rode into Gettysburg that morning along the Emmitsburg Road, he
passed through the town and then hurried on to the Chambersburg Pike in
search of Buford. He found him on McPherson's Ridge with his men,
attempting to keep the enemy in check for as long as possible. The
dramatized account of Reynolds and Buford meeting at the Lutheran
Seminary and their verbal exchange is based on a completely discounted
account filled with after-the-fact embellishments.
Perhaps there's an
application here to today's study of the Gospels. Many New Testament
scholars question the historical reliability of the four Gospel accounts
of the life of Christ. They insist that the records are filled with
after-the-fact embellishments -- a fact that requires scholars to search
for the "historical Jesus" beneath the accretions of tradition, much
like peeking an opinion to its core.
For example, on one
of the most important points of the Jesus story -- the resurrection and
the empty tomb -- all the Gospels agree. Yet even when confronted with
this evidence many people do not find the truth of the resurrection easy
to accept. Nevertheless, belief in the resurrection of Christ is
essential to our faith. Apostolic preaching confirmed it and even made
it a condition of salvation: "If
you confess with your mouth that Jesus is
Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you
will be saved"
I wrote my book
Why Four Gospels? not so much to argue for Matthean priority as to
affirm the complete historicity and apostolicity of the Gospels. Early
in my Christian experience I discovered that the Gospels were -- and
needed to be -- central in my understanding not only of the Good News
about Jesus Christ but of life itself. Only the cross of Jesus can
supply meaning to life, and that is because the cross and the
resurrection are an interwoven reality. Of one thing I am quite certain:
Christianity is a historical faith. It is rooted and grounded in
historical fact. No "leap of faith" is required to believe in Jesus. As
I once heard Francis Schaeffer put it in Switzerland, you don't have to
put your brain in park or neutral to become a Christian. His cross is
the center of all history. It is the crossroads of the universe. No one
can avoid confrontation with it.
It is my prayer
that skeptics may come to the Gospels with an open mind and heart, for
there the living Christ is ready to meet Doubting Thomases in their
pessimism and the travelers to Emmaus in their intellectualism.
The donkeys we were interested in have already been sold. Speaks well
for Craig's List!
Odds and ends ...
1) One of our SEBTS
students has just been accepted into the Th.M. program at nearby Duke.
2) My friend Jon
Glass sent along a link to this excellent piece called
Letter from a Minister
about Patriotism in Worship. The next step, I suppose, would be to
remove the American flag from our sanctuaries permanently. What a
message that would send.
3) Speaking of
misplaced patriotism, Allan Bevere writes that
We Must Reject Christendom. Brother Allan is beginning to sound more
and more like an Anabaptist!
4) "It was instructive to see
that in 2009, based on survey results, the total value of congregational
property in Southern Baptist Churches was….
Thus begins this amazing
piece by Arthur Sido. If you are a Southern Baptist and are at all
concerned about the extravagance and waste in our churches, you must
read it -- then act in such a way as to bring some common sense back
into the way our churches spend the Lord's money.
5) Becky and I are off donkey
shopping today. She's wanted one for years. Yes, of course, it will be
an African donkey :)
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. If you
only visit one site this year, it must be Gettysburg. Perhaps no piece
of ground in America is more revered. Because of a program promoted by
park superintendent John Latschar, the park has largely been restored to
its original 1863 appearance (if a piece of ground was bare then, it is
bare now). If you do visit Gettysburg I strongly urge you to take an
hour or so and follow the steps of the Confederate troops across the
mile of open fields that separated the Union and Confederate lines at
Gettysburg on the third day of battle.
As you finally step
over the low stone wall that marked the Federal front line, think of the
troops of both sides that met there, men who determined the fate of the
war, men fighting for something they believed in. I will not debate here
the appropriateness or advisability of "Pickett's Charge," but as you
stand on the ground where Confederate General Lewis Armistead was
mortally wounded and where Union General Winfield Scott Hancock was shot
down, I can guarantee you will sense something of the bravery of the men
of both sides. Be sure to walk to the Bryan House, where you will see
the newest monument on the battlefield, which marks the "high water mark
of the Confederacy" -- the spot where the battle flag of the 11th
Mississippi was found as it lay across the stone wall.
It is an irony in a
war filled with ironies that this farm was the property of a freedman,
Mr. Abraham Bryan, and thus the Confederate assault ended on the
property of a freed slave.
There are many
other points of interest at Gettysburg, of course, but few can equal the
spot where the dreams of the South faded away.
Below: Reunion at
Gettysburg in 1938.
More odds and ends ...
1) We had another superb faculty meeting today. I am blessed to a part
of such a wonderful seminary community. Lord, help me never to take it
2) Over at the Bethel Hill Baptist Church website, Becky has written an
outstanding essay called
Persecution on the Hill. It is a must read (and I am totally
3) Students: Don't
forget that Student Day is this Saturday from 10:00 to 4:00, with lunch
at 11:30. The weather will be perfect.
5) Looks like
Matthew McDill, a former doctoral student of mine, is becoming quite the
agrarian. His post on
raising chickens reminds me of that famous line from the movie
The Great Escape: "Zer vil be no escapink fwom zis camp!"
PMThis morning somebody
emailed me a couple of questions about my book
Why Four Gospels. Here are his questions, along with my answers.
I did have a couple
of questions on your book, if you would be so kind. In naming
your/Dr. Orchard's hypothesis the "Fourfold-Gospel Hypothesis,"
you compare it back to the "Two Gospel Hypothesis" advocated by
Dr. Farmer, et al., which I take is similar to the original
Griesbach. Would you say that review and analysis of the Patristic
and historical data is the main differentiation between the two?
Yes. The Farmer
group appears to have given the external evidence a back seat. Some
of them even date the Gospels much later than I would. Then again,
the term "Fourfold-Gospel Hypothesis" reflects our desire to show
that in the earliest church there was only ONE Gospel that was
passed on in four different versions. Why there are 4 (and only 4)
such accounts is a major question we sought to answer.
On page 22 you
identify the 3 evaluation arguments as: i) the external evidence in
the light of modern research; ii) the internal comparison of the
gospel texts to discover their sources and their interconnections;
and iii) show that no emergent hypothesis is credible unless it is
viable in light of the know history of the church and the Roman
Empire at the time. The first and third sound similar? The second
sounds pretty much like the standard textual critical approach?
Indeed we feel that
the internal evidence is important, but only to corroborate what has
already been established on the basis of the external evidence,
which (as you can see) overwhelmingly supports the priority of
Matthew's Gospel. For example, we believe that the zigzagging effect
is compatible with our theory – though it doesn't prove it.
Let the discussion continue!
As you know, my exegesis of Mark class is student-led.
Here's an email from the student who conducted the class while I was in
Class was very enjoyable today, with a lot of lively discussion. We
missed your presence, but I think all of us were also encouraged by
how much you trust the word of God to speak for itself and for the
Holy Spirit to teach us about Jesus. I was also encouraged by
everyone's equal participation….
Thank you, again, for modeling for us a reliance upon the word of
God and for sending us out (in a sense) to do what you have been
training us to do. Today was a good lesson in discipleship, though
without any threat of persecution.
What a delightful email. Sheer
empiricism teaches us that all learning is self-learning, and that the
more we teach, the more we learn.
PMOdds and ends …
1) The Ninth Annual International
Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism will take place August 7-12
in Hoddesdon, UK. For information, go
here. My thanks to Jim Sibley of the Criswell College for the tip.
2) Greek students! Check out some
fabulous Greek vocabulary flash cards
here. They are based on our beginning grammar.
PMThe United Methodist
Bible teacher and Scripture lover Henry Neufeld has published a book
about Calvinism. He tells us why
here. Henry's essay is a fine read. Case in point:
The Calvinists in
my head aren’t necessarily the same as the Calvinists in the real
world. One finds Calvinists involved in missions every bit as much
as (and possibly more than) their Arminian brethren. I recall
hearing John Blanchard, a Presbyterian evangelist, speak at a
conference here in Pensacola. One of the questions he was asked was:
"If you believe in predestination why would you be an evangelist?
How can you accept both?"
a doctrine, and I believe it. Evangelism is a command, and I obey
I appreciate that simple and
straightforward reply. Once again, common sense wins out in the great
debate over divine sovereignty versus human responsibility.
PMAndy Bowden, who is my right hand man
here at the seminary and a superb
blogger, is on his way to Germany this weekend to meet with
potential doctoral advisors. His visit reminds me of my first meeting in
Basel with Bo Reicke in the university library.
The prodigal son couldn't have had a
warmer welcome. I can still remember how he shook my hand and said how
glad he was that I had come to Basel. I knew immediately that I was glad
too. If you think about it, pray for Andy as he travels to Germany. He
will be in Munich, Bonn, and Göttingen. Ph.D. studies can be quite an
experience. That experience can be bad or good – or even great. Mine
certainly was the latter. Of course, that was all the Lord's doing. He
knew I would benefit from studying under Bo Reicke. A kinder man never
graced any university campus. No one could know the man without having
his or her life touched permanently. I will be forever grateful to God
for that wonderful experience.
Below: Becky and me about the
time of our Basel days.
Greetings, bloggers and bloggerettes!
We had a good trip to Dallas but are glad to be home. I had lots of good
conversations with my father-in-law who spent 10 years of his life as a
missionary to Ethiopia. Today he continues his work for the Ethiopian
people by publishing his website,
Good Amharic Books. This is a remarkable site. It offers, for free,
hundreds of Bible study books in the Amharic language.
As a Bible translator, I was
delighted when Mr. Lapsley told me the following story. It seems that
just after World War II the famous American preacher Donald Grey
Barnhouse made a visit to Ethiopia and met with His Excellency, Haile
Selassie. He asked the emperor what he could do for Ethiopia. The
emperor said, "Send us Bibles." Then he handed Barnhouse a copy of the
Scriptures in Amharic and gave him permission to have it printed in the
United States. Eventually several shipments of Bibles were made to
Ethiopia, and the copies were quickly distributed and widely used.
It seems that the version of the
Amharic Bible they had printed contained a major typo. In Revelation
22:9, instead of the angel saying to John "Do not [worship me]" the text
says "Do [worship me]." Upon discovering this mistake the Bibles were
taken out of commission. Here's the notorious page:
By the way, the difference between the
correct rendering and the incorrect one is infinitesimal:
Indatasagadin versus Inditasagadin – a difference of only one
letter and an easy enough error to make, though some have opined that it
was an intentional error made in order to support the Ethiopian Orthodox
Church's doctrine of the worship of angels.
Bible translation is truly an amazingly
Bid D, here we come. If you want to meet up, email me at
email@example.com. We'll be in
Dallas until Monday, March 28.
Was the apostle Paul a missionary or a theologian? Great minds
want to know. More than anything, I think Paul was a missions
mobilizer. God can use anyone who loves Jesus in the great task of
missions. Paul's life is a tremendous example of that. I urge you to
follow his example. See an open door for the Gospel? Respond. Use
whatever tools you have to get the message out. We need to learn how to
get on with the basic living out of the Christian life, mobilizing
people for missions and presenting the Gospel to the whole world. Do all
you can to bring your local church into the missions vision. You don't
have to have a special calling to be a missionary. The Holy Spirit will
enable every obedient follower of Jesus to obey His commission to take
the Good News to others.
How important is it for us to welcome each other in the Body of Christ?
Robert Jewett says extremely important. Read about his lecture on Romans
acceptance does not mean that one is allowed to stay in the same
place, but that one is accepted where they are at and throughout the
journey of being conformed into the image of the Son.
I devote a chapter to this topic
in my forthcoming Paul, Apostle of Weakness. If you sign on for
the long haul as a Christian, you're going to have to develop the
capacity to draw near to others. "Where do I begin?" In the household of
God, of course. This involves:
developing a loving, serving heart
being authentic and genuine with
risking rejection and misunderstanding
by your family, friends, and church mates
being an open, accepting person
refusing to be overly-critical or
You are committing yourself to "stick
with the troops" in your battalion, sharing the risks and rewards of
serving Christ. When you "mix it up" with others, expect to be
misunderstood. Resist the urge to put everyone in a box -- yours.
Acknowledge diversity of opinion within the Body. Get rid of your
non-redemptive and distorted perception of the way others are to think
Paul is clear in Romans 14-15 that
there will always be lesser and greater amounts of freedom in the
church, depending on the issues involved. Give grace, and don't allow
your differences to paralyze your evangelistic efforts. On the other
hand, don't give in to "professional" weaker brothers and sisters. The
fact is, you will never be able to conform to their petty legalisms.
Remember, the world is not black and white. Surrender your narrow,
self-imposed list of dos and don'ts, and then get on with the huge task
of living relentlessly and relationally for the Gospel.
Why are we so easily deceived into thinking that bigger is better? We
take pride in the enormity of our church buildings, the number of people
we have in our congregations, and the size of our budgets. Isn't this
just selfish ambition? I propose to handle this issue in Godworld:
Enter at Your Own Risk, my book on kingdom living. It is a deep and
difficult subject. But it is worthy of reflection and must be tackled.
Lord willing, I hope to get much of this writing done while we are in
The tragic truth is that the American church is very unlike Jesus.
Odds and ends ...
1) Here's the
update from Ethiopia. Many of you have been praying for the church
there in recent weeks. Please don't stop now.
2) Guess what we
did today? Finished our 2010 Federal tax returns. Glad to have that done
and over with.
3) A year ago I was
preaching in Ethiopia with my translator Nigusse. An ideal translator is
so much in sync with you that he even mimics your movements and
gestures. If I get excited, he gets excited too. Truly, translators are
the unsung heroes of mission work.
4) The Internet
offers a vast array of websites for those wanting to get to know their
Bibles better. Here's a website I use all the time and highly recommend:
The Bible Gateway. Virtually
every translation is found here (and not only in English), for free. You
probably won't check all of them out, but they will definitely help you
in your Bible study. It is an amazing resource.
5) Speaking of
Bible study, check out the blog called Jon's Journey. It's all
good, but I've linked to the section about
6) Thomas Hudgins'
post from El Salvador is a reminder that suffering and danger are
the lot of the Messiah's followers. Inevitably we will share in His
pain. The ancients had a saying: Per ardua ad astra, "through
trials to triumph." We are called, not to hide from danger, but to
publicly confess who Jesus is and what He has done for us. This may mean
suffering. It will mean taking up your cross and dying to yourself. For
those of you who are serving Christ in the hard places of the world, I
say: Thank you for the reminder of what it costs to follow Jesus.
7) A book on the
Lord's Supper that I co-edited is featured
8) Tomorrow Becky
and I are on the road again, this time to Dallas to enjoy the
hospitality of her mom and dad and get some R & R. I hope you'll be
praying for us.
interview with Andy Cheung has just been posted.
PMLloyd Ogilvie, former
pastor of Hollywood Presbyterian Church and a popular speaker and
writer, once spoke at a large convention. The woman who introduced him
began with the words,
We have a very unusual
privilege tonight. In our midst is without a doubt the world's
finest communicator. He is extremely sensitive, alert,
compassionate, and wise. He can sense a person's true needs
immediately and speak just the right word to heal a hurt.
Dr. Ogilvie would later confessed that he
felt both flattered and frightened at that point in the introduction.
How could he live up to all that?
He didn't have to.
As the woman came to the end of her
introductory remarks, she said,
We are in for a
tremendous experience tonight because this supreme lover of people
is in our midst. Who is He? He is Jesus Christ. And now here is a
man named Lloyd Ogilvie who will tell us about Him.
What a superb introduction!
PMAndy Bowden is on a
writing spree. His latest essay is
Preparing for studies abroad. It's a great start if you're thinking
about studying overseas, as Andy is. You may find what he says about
tuition in Germany a bit surprising.
PMLast night I checked
out from the seminary library and read a wonderful biography of Mary Lee
called Mrs. Robert E. Lee: The Lady of Arlington. Mary Anna
Randolph Custis Lee was a
woman. A published author, she read Greek and Latin fluently. When she
ordered a copy of Les Miserables she told the bookstore owner to
send her a copy in either English or French, whichever was more readably
available to him. But I was especially impressed with her deep
relationship with the Lord Jesus as witnessed in her daily diary. Here's
but one of several unforgettable quotes I found:
let me suffer any thing rather than have my heart turned away from
Thee." Mary Custis Lee, Prayer Journal, February 29, 1832.
It was her faith in Christ that
sustained her through years of separation from her husband and the
deaths of two of her children, not to mention the heartbreaking
transformation of her estate into a military cemetery.
The book is available through Amazon
here. I highly recommend it to all Civil War buffs. I will be
ordering a copy for Becky.
University announces an opening in
Great news from Ethiopia: Just got word that the team designated to
repair our water system at the Galana clinic is traveling to Burji this
week. Clean water is a must in any health clinic but especially one in
Just had a hot date with Becky. We walked to the mailbox and back.
A reader sent along these comments:
I liked your post about the church having a healthy post
natal environment and think that it's important for our churches to
have the Ananias and Barnabas ministries. Its been my observation
that people need encouraging...and I'm yet to meet someone who
doesn't need it.
5) Finally, pix of
the cutest grandson you've ever seen:
Tomorrow our Greek class picks up in Mark 7, which contains three
1) Jesus Upsets the
Traditions of the Elders (7:1-23)
2) Jesus Commends
the Faith of a Syro-Phonecian Woman (7:24-30)
3) Jesus Heals a
The first point is
significant: God's Word always takes precedence over human tradition.
Always. We need this reminder today, not least in our Baptist
churches in which we passionately defend our traditions.
The second pericope
is brilliant. It reveals the greatness of Jesus. Let others argue
about washing hands. People matter more! Don't you just love the wit
and humor of this little cameo?
The third story is
peculiar to Mark's Gospel. But the miracle is nothing unusual for Jesus.
It is wonderful that Jesus truly cares about the sick and suffering.
I am eager to see
what the class does with the word pugme in verse 3. What in the
world does it mean to wash one's hands "with a fist"?
I'm also curious to
see what the class says about the variant readings in verse 4, where our
beloved Aleph and B are clearly wrong, not once but twice!
Does your church have a healthy post-natal environment? In a healthy
church you'll find both an Ananias to help you get started out as a new
believer and a Barnabas to come alongside you and keep you encouraged
In Hawaii I suppose
my Ananias was Rudy Ulrich. He was a mainland haole who had come
to Kailua to lead people to Christ. He also pastored the First Baptist
Church Windward. I shall never cease to be grateful for the help he gave
others. I saw his concern for his converts over and over again -- even
for an 8-year old boy named Dave.
Later on, during my
teen years, the Barnabas who took me under his care was Pastor Jim Cook
of the International Baptist Church of Honolulu. He and his father had
started a little Bible school in their church, and I and several other
16-year olds looked to them to help us grow roots of our own. Jesus
lived the life of a servant, and so did Pastor Jim. It is an astonishing
thing that he made such an effort to be a Barnabas to young men like me.
Both Pastor Rudy and Pastor Jim were men who really cared and took
trouble over people. I needed the strength, the encouragement, and the
intellectual stimulation their lives offered.
Today it could
equally be said that my church family at Bethel Hill displays that same
kind of love and affection for me and Becky. It's very much the
kingdom on display. Sunday School classes always start out with the Body
sharing with fellow Christians some of the burdens in their hearts or
the answers to prayer they are experiencing. And so the fellowship
continues to grown, both spiritually and numerically.
Is personal caring
important to you? It was to the earliest followers of Jesus. Have you
been the recipient of such care? Then become its dispenser.
Odds and ends ...
1) Shout out to our
dear friend Mrs. Montague of Bethel Hill. This precious sister in Christ
turned a young 92 today. Happy Birthday to you!
2) Becky accompanied her mom this
morning at church. Mrs. Lapsley played both the prelude and the
offertory. I snapped this pic while they were practicing before the
service. Mom played "Fairest Lord Jesus" and "Beautiful Savior." Great
3) Rain is on its way tomorrow. No, I
didn't get this information from a meteorologist. My head's telling me
loud and clear. Thank the Lord for Maxalt.
One of my doctoral students, Paul Himes, knows some very special people
who live in Japan -- his parents. That will make you sit up and listen
to him when he bares his soul about that great nation. Read
Prayer and Compassion for Japan.
I guess that I had
unwittingly imprisoned Paul in the dusty office of a professor where
he spent his days pouring over ancient texts and scholarly tomes.
Professor Paul would eloquently expound on the finer points of
theology and praxis as he writes to distant congregations.
Missionary Paul, however, studies while traveling or during his
visits to various cities. (perhaps he would frequent the library in
Ephesus). Missionary Paul does theology in the context of
communities of diverse ethnicity and background. Missionary Paul
seeks to stay connected to congregations of believers with a fierce
devotion and parental concern. The letters of Missionary Paul, then,
reveal numerous insights into the Gospel that he preached, his
concern to demonstrate the inclusion of the Gentiles into the people
of God, the challenges he faced from opposing teachers, and various
issues affecting congregations.
Just think: The great apostle Paul was
a missionary first and foremost. Before he was a theologian. Or
perhaps, because he was such a great theologian.
I want to be like Paul, don't you?
Don't forget: Tonight's the night.
Quote of the day:
But there is to come
a sight more grand, more terrific, more sublime, and more disastrous
than anything earth has yet witnessed; there is to come a fire
before which Sodom's fire will pale to nothingness; and the inferno
of continents will sink into less than nothing and vanity. In a few
more years, my friends, Scripture assures us, this earth and all
that is in it, is to be burned up. That deep molten mass which now
lies in the bosom of our mother earth is to burst up—the solid
matter is be melted down into one vast globe of fire; the
wicked—shrieking, wailing, and cursing, will become a prey to these
flames that will blaze upward from the breast of earth; comets will
shoot their fires from heaven; all the
lightnings will launch their bolts upon this poor earth, and
it will become a mass of fire. But does the Christian fear it? No.
Scripture tell us we will be caught up together with the Lord in the
air, and will be forever with the Lord.
4) Check out the
website for the Voice of the
Martyrs. Among other things, we discovered that VOM has speakers who
are glad to come and talk in your church about persecution worldwide.
5) Speaking of
persecution, Said Musa has been released from prison in Afghanistan and
has left the country, according to
this report. This is a huge answer to prayer. In prison Musa wrote,
"I can't deny my Savior's name. Because my
life is just service to Jesus Christ and my death is going to heaven
[where] Jesus Christ is. I am a hundred percent ready to die."
Allan Bevere is certainly no flibbertigibbet. Once again he produces a
rock solid essay, this time on
forgiveness. The money quote:
We sure want to
receive forgiveness when we know we need it, but to forgive those
who ask us... that can be asking too much depending upon how greatly
we believe we have been wronged. Perhaps our difficulty in forgiving
is found in the unspoken assumption that the sins of others are more
grievous than our own. Perhaps in a culture where it has become
commonplace to demonize those who believe differently than we do,
whose politics is other than our own, whose selfish motivations are
labeled as nefarious whereas ours are simply mistaken... in that
kind of culture it can be so very hard to forgive.
NPR just reported that many Japanese in Tokyo have taken refuge in
Buddhist temples which have been opened as emergency shelters for the
general public. I think it could be said that our churches in America
have switched into a shelter/survival mode. We are running into
temporary survival shelters called Christian concerts and Christian
workshops and Christian Praisercise and Christian radio stations. This
massive retreat from our post-Christian, secularized culture is due to a
basic misunderstanding about the Gospel. The only kind of churches we
want are the pragmatic kinds that show us how to be successful and how
to have a perfect Christian family. Let's face it. Why do we insist on
planting yet another church in Raleigh when there are hundreds of
churches there already? What motivates us to construct our extravagant
and inefficient buildings at all? For many of us, Churchianity is as
addictive as drugs or alcohol. Tonight this meeting, tomorrow that
seminar. Where is the fruit that would authenticate our profession? But
the good news is that we don't have to remain in this retreat mode.
There is a way out of the mess we have created for ourselves. We can get
serious about Christ's command to take His Gospel to the ends of the
earth. What a great God we serve! We are attached to the Head so that we
can be His Body in the world!
Just bathed the dogs. I don't know who got wetter, them or me.
P. T. O'Brien's 2010 commentary on Hebrews is reviewed
here. This made me smile:
On authorship, of
course, the jury is still out, perhaps forever. Clearly it was not
Paul (Heb 2:3).
There's much truth here:
Those who know nothing
of foreign languages know nothing of their own.
So said Goethe, and so say I.
Jeremy Zach identifies
11 Ridiculous Things That Keep Youth Groups From Growing. I'm no
expert on the subject, but I do have a question for youth pastors and
other youth leaders: Why are we entertaining our youth just at the
moment in life when they most need to see biblical reality?
What would happen if we threw out all
of our gimmicks for growth and instead treated our youth with all
seriousness, exposing them to real-world mission field experiences? How
about serving on the front lines of the Gospel? How about loving and
sacrificing for others? The haunting question that must be asked about
today's youth ministries is this: "Isn't it time to get out of the rut
of self-development and raise the bar so that every young person who
knows Christ is asked to go all out sharing Jesus with the publicans and
sinners of our day?"
If you're at all interested in Greek discourse analysis, take a look at
this interview with Will Varner of the Masters Seminary about his
new commentary on James. In a nutshell...
My discourse analysis
shows that James had a consistently applied idea of the Jewish “two
ways” schema that is portrayed in what I call his “peak” paragraph:
James 3:13-18. There James portrays a bi-polar contrast between
wisdom from above and anti-wisdom (wisdom from below). I believe
that such a schema is stamped then on every other paragraph of the
book. The readers, addressed as “brothers,” must choose to follow
the Divine way or the human way. Each paragraph is opened by
“brothers” plus an imperative command or a rhetorical question that
provides the topic which is then applied within the paragraph.
1) In case you
didn't know, we have a section on our website devoted entirely to the
work of the Lord in Ethiopia. We tell it like it is -- the good, and the
not so good. It's called
2) Not sure that it
matters very much, but the recent tsunami in Japan brought back plenty
of memories of growing up in Hawaii and hearing the tidal wave sirens
blaring at all times of day or night. We took those warnings very
seriously in those days and left for high ground just as thousands did
yesterday in Waikiki.
3) I haven't
forgotten about one of my doctoral students who is interviewing next
week for a fabulous teaching position in another state. I couldn't be
happier and will be praying constantly for him.
4) I spent several
hours yesterday going through my ms. one last time and still found
mistakes. Nothing odd about that, by any means, but it's still a little
5) I'm taking the
plunge and (Lord willing) will be traveling to Wheaton for this year's
If you're a blogger and/or prospective SEBTS student and would like to
meet up, just let me know:
Odds and ends ...
1) Took Becky out
for Chinese buffet tonight. Lots of shrimp on the menu. I like shrimp.
Shrimp will be in heaven. Guaranteed.
2) Praying about
attending the ETS Southeast Regional Meeting March 25-26. Also about
attending the Wheaton Theology Conference April 7-9. The latter's theme
intrigues me: "Global Theology in Evangelical Perspective."
3) Becky's mom
arrives tomorrow for a week-long visit. You know what that means.
4) Enjoyed a visit
today from Jon and Matthea Glass (erstwhile missionaries to Burji). They
came to pick up some beef. Took a long walk with them on the farm.
Note: As you can
see, B's hair is growing back nicely. In fact, she now has more hair on
her head than I have on mine and I am seriously jealous.
Today God is calling every Christian to bondservant service to the
world, even among our enemies. Please, please stop denouncing Islam. God
is not interested in your demagoguery. He is looking for a lifetime of
humble, behind-the-scenes service to the persecuted church -- and
to its persecutors. Denounce Islam all you want, but that won't make a
whit of difference unless you are willing to put your own life on the
line. Today God is calling out an army of radicals who will feel His
heartbeat and accept His call to live a life of Christian servanthood.
Persecution quote of the day:
We often think of
persecution and martyrdom as something that happens to Christians in
pagan lands at the hands of Muslims or some tribal people or
Communist governments. It is vitally important to remember that for
much of Christian history, most Christians were put to death by
other people who claimed to be Christians.
Hard for me to believe that it was exactly a year ago during my spring
break that Becky and I spent two weeks in Ethiopia. Unlike our trip
last summer, when we took 21 others with us, this time it was just Bec
and me, and our purpose was singular: to get reconnected to the
people. Seems a huge waste to take so many photos and not share some of
them with you, so here goes.
First off, here's
Becky Lynn being greeted in a village in faraway Burji.
Young and old alike turned out in swarms to welcome "Mama Becky" back home.
I do not recall
just who this woman was, but when she saw me she made a beeline for me
and hugged and hugged on me.
I may never see
this precious saint this side of heaven again, but God knows exactly who
she is. He knows her entire past history -- her sorrows, her burdens,
her griefs, her joys. He understands her. He loves her. The poor
women of Ethiopia: they are often treated like scullery maids. How
precious they are to Becky and me.
I'll never forget this
Because of timely medical
intervention, Becky was able to provide
emergency care for this precious wife and mother. She lost her baby
but she herself survived. Here she is overwhelmed by joy to see Becky
again. Note, too, the older women waiting in the wings to hug on their
daughter. This is how it is everywhere we go in Ethiopia. Becky is truly
an Ethiopian, though this fact is somewhat obscured by her white
In Burji we went to the
clinic to pray over a young lady
named Ake who had been shot by the Gujis while out in the fields.
When Becky examined
her I could tell the case was desperate: sepsis had infiltrated her
entire body. The next day our sister departed to be with the Lord. While
in the clinic we noticed this patient holding her infant.
Turns out the lady was
Bogalech, a leader among the women of the Burji church. Her child had
stopped growing and refused to put on any weight. The Lord allowed us to
bring bring Bogalech and Tiblett to Addis. I am glad to report that
today Tiblett is doing well though her development will never be
"normal." Have you ever seen a sweeter baby?
B and I had plenty
of opportunities to address the flock everywhere we went. Here Becky
speaks to a group of believers in Alaba, where (as you know) the
persecution has been severe of late.
Here I am sharing
the Good News to a group of villagers in Burji. My teaching in group
settings is very simple -- usually a Scripture and a parable/story.
everywhere we went Becky's wig was a huge hit with the ladies.
I wish I could tell
you how precious and dear these three men are to us. Time would fail me.
Here they are
picking up the Sabers and loud speakers for our churches in Burji. (For
a report, go
On other trips we've picked up Amharic Bibles in Addis for distribution down south. Our
Bible Memory Program is rigorous (you must memorize and recite
perfectly 9 passages of Scripture), but that has not stopped thousands of Ethiopians from
completing it, many of them children.
children, it is a fact that over half of Ethiopia's
population is under 17 years of age. Children are ubiquitous. And they
are always eager to practice their English. Let's see, what to teach
Well, I hope you
enjoyed your visit to Ethiopia. We need to be praying for the church
there as it faces opposition from the enemies of the cross. We also need
to be praying for God's guidance as to how we should use our vacations
and holidays. Can this time be used for kingdom work instead of being
used selfishly? Satan has a thousand little traps to keep us from being
about the Father's business. We need to compare our lifestyles
continually against that of the Scriptures. Remember: Only those
soldiers that go to the battlefield get shot at and wounded. If we were
submitting our time to the Lord of the harvest, how would our lives be
Since I first published Paul, Apostle of Weakness way back in
1984, the church has seen many changes. Many of these involve
technology. My dissertation was typed on a machine called a typewriter.
Today the typewriter is a museum piece. Today we enjoy so many
advantages I lacked when I was a student: the internet, Twitter, Face
Book, blogging. These changes have all been for the good, and I embrace
Still, some things never change. Here are a few of them:
Christian education is still
likeness education. We become like those with whom we study. So let
us choose wisely.
Power to love the lost is still a
supernatural thing. Only the Spirit can impart such love. He alone
stirs us out of our apathy and into service.
Persecution is still a mark of
the normal Christian life. No true follower of Jesus can die and
rise with the Master and still live peaceably with this world.
Barriers still exist. The
educated versus the uneducated, the haves versus the have-nots,
Republicans versus Democrats. Christians truly comprise a third race
-- and we should live that way by rising above these barriers.
Education still opens doors. If
you're well-educated, use your degrees for the Lord. My Basel
doctorate has opened some unbelievably wide evangelistic doors for
me. Of course, in the Body of Christ, degrees mean nothing. The
kingdom is flat.
We still need to share our faith
with the lost. Relationally and relentlessly. The Christians who
brought the Gospel to Antioch (Acts 11) were impelled by one thing:
their concern for others.
The ministry of the Word is still
necessary. And not just by "preachers." I mean individual Christians
wrestling with what they read in their Bibles. I mean small groups
giving priority to Bible study. I mean using the Scriptures both as
a guide for daily living and an instrument which which to share
Christ with others.
We still need to care for new
believers. The goal is not decisions but disciples. We Baptists
should be ashamed of our inflated membership statistics. New
converts must get settled in the basics of the Christian life.
The church must still care for
the hungry and needy. My preaching among the fierce Guji tribe of
Ethiopia did not take place in a vacuum. Seeds were distributed to
the villagers, and our acceptance was at least partly due to the
loving practical assistance that was offered in the name of the
Shared leadership remains a
priority. It can make a huge difference in our churches not least by
preserving us from the idiosyncrasies of one person.
In a word, the
times may have changed, as well as the means by which we communicate
with each other, but there are certain aspects of basic Christianity
that will never be passé.
of Knox College announces that his
new Greek grammar will appear this year. I wish it well!
It seems beyond question that the evangelical church in America is
divided beyond repair. (This is not the case in many other countries in
the world, including Ethiopia, where evangelicals work side by side and
hand in hand for the Gospel.) I think we can agree that the topic is an
important one. Perhaps I'm being unduly optimistic, but I think Arthur
Sido points us to the correct answers in his latest blog post called
How to change a culture of accepted disunity.
Right now I am paying our household bills. Luke 14:30 reads, "This
person began to build but couldn't finish." I assume the person ran out
of money and couldn't pay the bills as they came due. Beginning Greek
students, may I apply this to our class? It is not enough to start. Yes,
I realize it's costing you more than you had anticipated. The first
flush of the new venture has long since worn off and Greek class is now
simply putting one foot in front of the other. Perhaps the cost is more
than you thought. But I beg you to believe me -- the rewards are worth
the investment. And if I can help you in any way please let me know. I
am here to serve you. Even during my week off.
review of Love Wins by Rob Bell is a reminder that exegesis
matters. Greek matters. The seeds of this debate may well have been
planted in a faulty understanding of language and linguistics.
Buchanan wants to know where we get the moral or legal right to
attack Libya. In my opinion, it is impossible to know whether
violence will be effective toward the ends that are posited. This is
self-evident when we look at Iraq, where the government in recent days
has been clamping down (with the use of force) on innocent protestors.
We ask, "We spent our blood and fortune for this?" Buchanan is correct:
a no-fly zone over Libya will require us to attack a sovereign nation
that has never attacked us. At the very least this would require a
congressional declaration of war. As for us Christians, I see in Libya a
reminder of two things:
1) The power of
weakness. There is a strength involved when the weak and oppressed
masses begin to protest.
2) The weakness of
power. Power corrupts, and governments that wield it unjustly will one
day have to answer to the people.
What might a
Christian response look like in Libya? Based on my reading of the
Gospels, Christians are under no obligation to enforce what governments
sanction through violence. We do not ask, "How can we defeat the
pro-government forces?" Nor do we ask, "How can we support militarily
the anti-government forces?" Instead, Christian doctors might volunteer
their medical services to treat the wounded (of both sides) in the name
of the Prince of Peace. They would show a watching world that Jesus'
kingdom transcends political boundaries. Indeed, Jesus renounced the
justified insurrection of the Zealots of His day. In my view, this is
not the time in human history to give up on the claims of the Jesus of
the Gospels that Christian ethics must be transmuted in apolitical
During the American Civil War the cavalry tactics of George Armstrong
Custer became the stuff of legend. Of the Union's Generals, only Grant,
Sherman, and Sheridan were held in higher regard by the public. The Boy
General had found his calling, and he was very good at it. Why am I
mentioning this? Because Custer graduated at the very bottom of his
class at West Point. And he earned his worst grades in -- want to guess?
-- cavalry tactics! By all accounts, Custer hated book learning. On the
job training suited him much better.
Although I am a
classroom teacher by profession and have been at it for some 34 years, I
assure you, everything of significance you will ever learn you will
learn from experience, not in a classroom. The crucible of life is
realistic, nontechnical (usually), and free from perfectionistic
demands. Essentially, Christianity is a Way of life. Biblical principles
work. If they didn't, I would never waste your time or mine by
writing this blog. Life is a place for biblical truth to be fleshed out,
regardless of our educational status or attainments. It's lengthy,
costly, messy -- and just plain hard work. But when you consider the
alternative, it's well worth the effort.
I began my revision of Paul, Apostle of Weakness well over a year
ago. It's one thing to say, "I'm going to republish my dissertation."
It's another thing entirely to get the thing finished. One famous author
put it this way:
Writing a book is an adventure.
To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a
mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The
last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your
servitude, you kill the monster and fling him about to the public.
comments on book writing are certainly fitting. Now it's on to other
Arthur Sido reviews
Mere Churchianity ("This is a book
for those who see more to the church than pulpits, pews and
handshakes in the foyer").
PMToday I finished, by the
grace of God, my revision of Paul, Apostle of Weakness. I had
lots of barriers that had kept me from this task, mostly specious ones,
i.e., lame duck excuses. I have found that growing older has its
challenges that are impossible to escape. Strange things occur. What
once was easy becomes a bit more complicated. Writing requires more
mental energy than it did when I was a freshly-minted D.Theol. Age
breeds tendencies that must be brought under control. Procrastination is
one of them. So is the tendency to kick up one's heels and say, "I've
paid my dues." One thing is for sure: I'm a lot more weather-beaten now
than I was when the first edition of the book came out. Still, I have an
enormous desire to write books that God has placed within me. Writing is
a lot like physical exercise. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.
Yesterday I set a "workout" goal, and today I'm done. I hope to have the
book off to the publisher by the end of the month. I've updated both the
bibliography and each chapter. I've also used inclusive language
throughout and have transliterated all Greek and Hebrew words. It's been
a fun, painful, frustrating, and extremely rewarding process, all at the
same time. I still can't believe that this was my very first published
book, and that it is to have a "phoenix" moment. I'm warning you,
though: Studying about God's strength-in-weakness goal for Christians
can be dangerous. I am not a new Christian. I have been walking with the
Lord Jesus for 51 years. Yet there is no single area of my Christian
life that does not need significant improvement. If the result of this
book is to drive us all to our knees and to a reexamination of our
weaknesses in the light of the Scriptures, then I will be well
Below: The old (left) and the new
(still in manuscript form):
Wow, if this isn't true!
Is there a ministry in your church or
something at your office that you just do to be doing, yet it is
bearing no fruit? Why do you keep doing it? Habit? Security? Fear of
change? If it isn’t bearing any fruit, then you and I are wasting
time aren’t we? I no longer fear pruning. Sometimes it just has to
Jimma and its
vicinities are not new for such religious conflicts. Hundreds were
killed after clashes between Muslims and orthodox Christians six
years ago. Currently a number of Protestants are fleeing the
conflict areas and sheltered in the compound of the office of Union
of Evangelical Churches Ministry in Jimma. Kale Hiwot church is
hosting another 27 families who fled from the violence. Some people
are also sheltering in Mekane Yesus church.
Note: "Kale Hiwot" is the largest
Protestant denomination in Ethiopia and is baptistic in its structure
and polity. "Mekane Yesus" refers to the Lutheran church in Ethiopia.
Odds and ends ...
"Tomorrow morning I begin my
new job with JCB." Thus begins
this powerful blog post by Eric Carpenter. We wish you well, Eric,
as you begin your new job today!
5) Graham Michael
mounts an assault on "Celebrity Christianity" in his excellent essay
Labels and Division.
6) My goal this
week (it is spring break) is to finish my revision of Paul, Apostle
of Weakness. This has been a wonderful project for me in every way,
but I just can't seem to wrap it up!
Quote of the day (Dietrich Bonhoeffer):
The best-informed man
is not necessarily the wisest. Indeed there is a danger that
precisely in the multiplicity of his knowledge he will lose sight of
what is essential.
This email prayer came today:
Brother Dave. I praise the Lord for
you and sister Becky's continued love for all the saints. I praise
him for your continued remembrance of his body which is persecuted
and your stepping out to support them. I praise our Lord for your
continued hospitality for those who are in need and the ministry of
encouragement that you both have. I pray that the Lord will quicken
his hand of healing over your lives; that he will continue to cause
you to be fruitful and effective in love; through your combined
ministry of impacting and imparting wisdom and grace to those you
teach and serve in the many ways you do.
I continue to pray that the Lord will
cover you with a blanket of peace; which will allow your minds and
bodies to rest. May our Lord give you the ability to truly be able
to give Him all your anxious thoughts; tell him about your fears and
doubts in any area that troubles you and that only the peace he can
give will cover, fill and flow through you both and not only you;
but your family. Today I also join in and say Amen with your prayers
for any family and friends whom have not yet come to know the grace
of our Lord.
Nice little serendipity. I
print it here with permission of the author. To him and to all who pray
for us regularly: thank you very much for your love for us. We
feel we do not deserve your love. But we accept it with gratitude.
Persecution alert: Just received an email from friends in Ethiopia that
Muslim extremists have attacked and burned down 40 church buildings and
a Bible school in and around the city of Jimma. Two people are known to
have lost their lives in the rampage. I'll have more news when I receive
it. Pass the word and pray.
End of a very busy day. This afternoon was spent in major moving
operations here at Bradford Hall. I just calculated that we completed 17
tasks today. These included moving one buffet cabinet, one shrank (i.e.,
standup closet; these first two items we brought back with us from Basel
in 1983), one clavinova, two bookshelves, two file cabinets, two
dressers, two bunk beds, one desk, and --outside -- we loaded two huge
trailers with lumber. Five families from Bethel Hill joined us in the
work. A huge Rosewood Farm THANK YOU to Leigh, Marshall, and Thomas
Humphries (along with their friend Carson); Woody and Lendon Jacobs;
Chris Jacobs; Marshall and Sandy Clayton; and Jason, Stacie, and
Garrison Hatley. Becky and I want you to know: You are family. Feel free
to drop by anytime, not only on "work days."
We all got quite a
workout today. We'll feel it tomorrow I'm sure. Our goal in rearranging
the furniture? We wanted to make it easier for when B's mom and dad come
to visit us. Now their sleeping quarters will be downstairs. Also, this
fall we plan on providing free room and board for two seminarians. They
will be international students, each from a different nation. Becky and
I have a special place in our hearts for foreign students since we
ourselves were international students at one time.
Pix (of course):
I am very excited for my friends
Alvin Reid and Matt Capps,
both of whom are beginning a series on the book of Philippians today. It
is amazing to me how an understanding of the entire structure of the
book helps to clarify and disambiguate lower level constructions such as
phrases and clauses. Here are but three examples:
1) In 2:12, Paul
says "work out your own salvation." Dos this refer to one's individual
spiritual salvation or to something bigger and broader? Well, remember
that this letter is addressed to the church as a whole, and that Paul
has just warned the believers in Philippi to do nothing from
selfishness. Instead, they are to regard others as more important than
themselves and look out for the interests of others (2:1-4). Hence
"salvation" here seems to be a reference to the health and corporate
well-being of the church, which has been under duress because of various
factions in its midst. (Note 2:14: "Do all things without grumbling and
complaining" is but a very practical example of the outworking of their
2) In 2:16, are we
to render the Greek "holding forth the Word of life" or "holding fast to
the Word of life"? The Greek permits either rendering. The participle
epechontes may mean "hold on to" something, but the emphasis of the
entire book is on living for the sake of the Gospel, putting the Good
News first in our lives (1:27). This we do by "holding forth" the
life-giving Word. In Homer the term is used for holding a cup to a
thirsty person's lips or the offering of a breast to a baby. Clearly,
then, the reference here is to missionary activity in spreading the
3) In 4:5 we read:
"Let your gentleness be known to all people. The Lord is near." The
Greek term epieikes, translated here "gentleness," means
(according to BDAG) "not insisting upon every right or letter of the law
or custom; yielding; humble, kind; courteous; tolerant." The NEB renders
the term "magnanimity" while Hendricksen prefers "big-heartedness." Paul
is saying, "Don't sweat the small stuff. Be willing to meet others half
way. Stop insisting on having everything your way." After all, the Lord
is near; He is coming soon to right all wrongs. The Philippian church,
divided by backbiting that had left deep teeth marks, surely needed this
word of exhortation.
Alvin and Matt,
I'll be praying for as you exposit this wonderful epistle. Please keep
us updated on your Twitter accounts as to how things are going.
An Open Letter to my Exegesis of Mark class:
I hope you're enjoying as much as
I am our study of the Gospel of Mark and its bold look at what it
means to follow Jesus. My own study of the sixteenth century
Anabaptists forever changed the way I looked at Christian
discipleship. As John Howard Yoder was fond of saying, the
Anabaptists did not reinvent Christianity; they simply rediscovered
its radical character. For example, they were content to call each
other "brother and sister" because Jesus had made it clear that
honorific titles had no place in His kingdom. They refused to
slavishly follow church traditions. In Zürich, the Anabaptist
movement began with the expectation that the Zwinglian movement
might indeed "go all the way" with reformation. For them, the New
Testament provided no warrant for infant baptism or for the union of
church and state. They "saw things differently" you might say -- and
that is precisely my goal for you, my Greek students.
My prayer is that this course
might be a training ground for cultivating an ability to see things
differently and, thus, to see things truly. We can no longer aim to
live "the good Christian life" as advertised in Christian magazines.
I'm convinced that, if we would adopt a truly Christian lifestyle,
we would turn our world upside down for Christ. Jesus' disciples
knew this. They lived a lifestyle that matched their responsibility
to a lost world. It showed as they went forth, two by two, to preach
and heal. It showed by their detachment from the worship of earthy
things. It showed.
Jesus made no apology for
demanding our ultimate allegiance. If we're not putting His kingdom
first, then why in the world are we studying the Gospels?
Yours in the Lamb,
To our good friend Aussie John and his dear wife Valerie:
6) It's been a
while since I linked to anything by Greg Boyd, but his latest essay
provides some valuable insights into
Rob Bell's latest book (which Greg has actually read).
7) David Ker wants
some help in interpreting a
couple of passages in Philippians. (A peripheral comment if I may:
Wouldn't a perusal of the major Greek exegetical commentaries on the
book be a good place to start?)
I wrote the following report after attending the 2010 SBC Convention in
Orlando. I believe what I wrote then is still relevant today.
The Future of
Southern Baptist Missions
summer I attended the SBC convention in Orlando. How was it? Expensive.
The seminary very graciously put me up in the Hilton. Not cheap.
However, I noticed a nearby Days Inn whose rooms went for half the
price. That's where I spent my second night. Felt good to be able to
save the school some money. Besides, little David had something Goliath
lacked: An internet terminal in the lobby where guests could check their
email. Gotta have that! I met lots of people, both colleagues and
students (former and prospective). Jason Hall did an absolutely
phenomenal job of setting up and managing the SEBTS booth. David Allen
sauntered by one day, as did many other good friends.
Multiply these encounters a hundredfold and you'll understand why these
conferences are so much fun. I don't know how many messengers attended
this year's meeting but the place was packed solid. The SEBTS luncheon
on Wednesday, at which both Danny Akin and Johnny Hunt spoke, was
fantastic. I came away from the convention with a new realization that a
Great Commission resurgence will not begin at the denominational level.
It will end there. A Great Commission commitment must begin in our homes
and marriages, and then in our local churches, each one of them. This is
clearly the pattern of the book of Acts. The church at Antioch, the
world's first missional church, is proof of that. As I came to this
realization, I was filled with excitement. Clearly missions is now
possible on a scale as never before. I'm not talking about professional
missionaries only. The work of the Great Commission will certainly
include them. But the work is much broader than that. The playing field
has been leveled as never before. It is level in the sense that everyone
can now be a player, and in venues once thought impossible. Just do a
Google. I did so the other day and found an interesting site, in Iraq of
all places. A new American University has just opened there and is
willing to pay you to be a fulltime missionary to Iraq -- as long as you
are willing to teach business or English. Here education, as it so often
has done in the past, is leading the way in breaking down walls and
knitting the world together. The dynamic behind this globalization in
education is practically begging us North Americans to capitalize on it.
(I am tempted to grab a quick degree in ESL and apply for the job
Let's say you want to do missionary work in China. Did you know that
secular Chinese universities are hiring Americans to teach courses in
biblical studies? A couple of years ago I got an email from an American
scholar who was taking a sabbatical in China and teaching at Shanghai
University. He wrote to tell me he was using my beginning Greek grammar
in one of his courses. I was flabbergasted. Here was an American
evangelical teaching both Greek and New Testament Introduction in a
Chinese university, at the expense of the Chinese. In Dalian -- China's
silicon valley -- there are 22 universities and colleges with over
200,000 students. Most of these ambitious young people are eager to
study English. The era of top-down missions -- where all missionaries
are professionally trained -- is rapidly vanishing. Something infinitely
more satisfying is arising alongside the traditional model. The faster
the transition, the greater the potential for involving larger and
larger numbers of "laypeople" (you and me) in the cause of the Great
Commission. This flattening of world missions has the potential to
unlock pent-up energies for hundreds of thousands of North Americans,
Southern Baptists included.
is impossible to exaggerate how important this development is. Couple
this with developments in communications and transportation and the
world has become not only flatter but a lot smaller. Becky's missionary
parents traveled to Ethiopia for the first time in 1954. Their trip by
freighter took 6 weeks. Today we can fly from Washington DC to Addis
Ababa in a mere 19 hours. Moreover, wherever you're going, there's
probably a job skill God can use. Working in a secular job while
actually being a fulltime missionary may sound rather routine and dull.
But these jobs often pay well, and you have a natural venue for
establishing relationships with a view toward sharing the Good News. In
addition, biblical education is possible as never before. It's is no
longer campus-centered, and you can easily educate yourself -- even in
Greek and Hebrew -- online. When Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft, his
goal was to provide every individual "IAYF" -- information at your
fingertips. His success is obvious.
global information revolution has impacted missions. The world is now
connected, and it seems that nothing will stop the digital
representation of practically everything. Back when my in-laws were
working in Ethiopia, this infrastructure was missing. Now everyone is
online -- writing, blogging, tweeting. (Personally, I believe HTML is
the greatest invention of the twentieth century, since it has allowed
average people like me to author web pages with ease.) We have reached a
point in missions that almost any of us can become personally involved,
whether it's by going or informing or teaching via one's website. The
great thing about modern missions, as I heard over and over again at the
convention, is that anyone and everyone can be involved. Indeed,
everyone ought to be involved. Even a Facebook page or a Twitter
account can become a powerful evangelistic tool in this day of social
networking. In other words, once the idea that every Christian is
a fulltime missionary is accepted, the work of missions will advance
with much less hierarchy -- and much less wasted money. In time, I think
we will see a new equilibrium emerge in which professionally-trained
missionaries will work side-by-side with an army of volunteers in a
low-friction environment that enhances cooperation.
me, working in Ethiopia is a dream come true. When Becky and I went to
Ethiopia in 2004 our sole purpose was to see the places in her childhood
that shaped her. Today we make two trips a year. There are many
professional missionaries working in Ethiopia, but Becky and I have
still found plenty of room to maneuver in places where most foreign
missionaries would never think of going. As with blogging, where an army
of citizen journalists has matched the official media outlets in the
information gathering and disseminating routine, today there is an army
of citizen missionaries harnessing the power of the Spirit and
channeling it into significant ministries. And as never before, these
ministries can stay connected. It is impossible to gauge the impact of
the internet on the SBC, but when you hear Johnny Hunt say that he read
hundreds of tweets during the Orlando convention it is clear that the
social media are successfully monitoring the news. My generation had to
adapt to the internet, but the current generation is growing up online.
(I once read that one third of grade school students have their own
email addresses.) The bottom line of what I am saying: It's time for us
to wake up to the fact that there is a fundamental shift talking place
in the way many of our churches are thinking about missions. We face the
potential of tapping into the energy and abilities of five times as many
people as before. As missions becomes flattened, local churches will
realize they can plant other churches or send out missionaries
themselves. The missions "connection" will move from vicarious support
of foreign missionaries via missions giving to raising up local
personnel and sending them forth. "Let's get the job done!" is a
rallying cry I'm hearing from more and more Southern Baptists. And the
students I'm seeing these days in seminary are like Swiss Army Knives --
sharp and adaptable. This is what happens when the missionary enterprise
is no longer outsourced. Collaborative innovation flourishes -- and the
result is expanded involvement on all levels in the Great
point I took away from Orlando was a simple reminder: We are all fellow
missionaries. The Body of Christ is moving into a world where less and
less of the work of global evangelization is being outsourced. When we
develop a missional mindset, we get rid of the notion that missions is
only for others. We are moving into a world where more and more of us
will do the work of an evangelist. In the meantime, missionary
communications are being revolutionized. During the Orlando convention I
kept up with a friend's mission trip to Greece via his tweets and
twitpics. (I imagine he was keeping up with the convention as well.) In
short, my two days in Orlando showed me that there is potential for our
priorities to get completely reshuffled -- with an accompanying
awareness that missions is ultimately the responsibility of local
churches -- yours and mine. As I said earlier, a Great Commission
resurgence will not not happen in the convention without it happening in
my own life. Let's face it: We can say we are "Great Commission
Christians" until we are blue in the face. Meanwhile, the world is going
to hell. Recently the BP chairman apologized for the oil spill and
added: "We made it clear to the president that words are not enough. We
should be judged by our actions." Southern Baptists need to hear that
loud and clear. More and more of us are asking which of our values are
worth preserving and which should disappear. I hope that all of this
gets sorted out at the denomination level (and I predict that it will).
But even if it doesn't, there is nothing to keep me and my local church
from doing all we can to help advance God's kingdom on earth, both
through our support of the CP and through our personal
The news you've all been waiting for:
But I'm getting
ahead of myself. After a trip to Ace, I laid out all my tools like a
Then I fitted
together the new pipe and coupling to the old copper tube and threaded
it through the holes into the crawl space.
Working mostly by
feel, I then glued together the two pieces of PVC.
After a few minutes
to let everything dry came the moment of truth. I turned the water back
on and everything worked. And it wasn't that hard either -- no harm, no
foul, no blood, no ambulance (as Chick Hearn used to say during the
Lakers games in Los Angeles).
Thanks to everyone
who wrote in to sympathize with my plight. One of you asked:
Brother Dave, how is your son and
daughter-law and Nolan? You don't speak much of them any more is
Nathan not around to help you with the pipe?
To which I replied:
Extremely busy. Saw Nolan and Jessie
yesterday. Both looked great. Nolan is beginning to talk. Nate is
gone almost every day from dawn to dusk on construction projects
(his building skills are in great demand). So I'm giving them lots
of space and privacy to establish their own business, family style,
boundaries, identity, etc., as every new family deserves.
We've divided operations: Nate, Jess,
and Co. will do the farming, and I will simplify (in my "old age")
and stick to Bradford Hall repairs -- since I'm so good at them.
Right now I'm watching Nate on the tractor spreading fertilizer in
the fields getting ready for haying. Beautiful.
As you can see, I'm trying to step up to
the plate when it comes to home repairs and such, which I should have
done years ago. It was always so much easier to lean on my capable son.
But those days are gone forever -- and for the better!
P.S. No, I didn't forget to water Becky's
Odds and ends ...
attending a women's conference in Roxboro all day today. Praying it is
edifying for everyone in attendance.
2) Just received an email from a
missionary in Asia who has been using our
Greek DVD set. He writes: "The DVDs, yes I received them in
mid-January I believe and have been thoroughly blessed by them! Reading
the chapter once, watching the DVD lecture, and reading again has been
very fruitful. " What a blessing!
3) Here's the latest on the
brouhaha over Rob Bell's new book. The author raises some good
questions: "Is the blogosphere the new council? Where is the
authority? What are the boundaries as to how the discussion should
proceed? Should we be airing our issues for all the world to see in
such a public format?"
4) I ran into Lloyd Williamson at Ace
Hardware yesterday. Lloyd went with us to Alaba back in June of 2007.
I'll never forget the first time an Ethiopian held his hand while
walking. The Ethiopian in question was a man, not a woman. There was
brother Lloyd, outdoorsman, hunter, farmer -- the ultimate Alpha Mensch
-- walking hand in hand with another male. He took a big swallow and
then carried on as if nothing unusual had happened. The things you have
to do to be a good missionary!
5) Our library at SEBTS is a wonderful
repository of books, and I have profited from its proximity to my office
on campus. In case you're interested, I checked these books out on
Tuesday afternoon. They were all read by Wednesday morning.
The Evangelicals: What They
Believe, Where They Are, and Their Politics, by Christopher
Doing Ministry in the Igbo Context:
Towards an Emerging Model for the Church in Africa, by Cajetan
Falun Gong and the Future of China,
by David Ownby.
L' identité de l' Eglise dans les
Actes des apôtres, by Simon Butticaz.
Philippians and Philemon, by
Note: I am gravely suspicious of any
book that claims to speak for "Africa," which, after all, is comprised
of some 54 different nations and untold numbers of separate ethnic
6) How's your home repair project
going, Dave? you ask. I need to get back to the local hardware store
and purchase a couple of wrenches, then I should be good to go. And just
in the nick of time, too. Becky asked me to water her freshly planted
flowers in the front garden beds, and it might help if I had the spigots
7) You have to feel sorry for Andrew
Rozalowsky, a student at McMaster Divinity School. He wasted good study
time by reviewing a book on the Gospels that is nothing but a "fanciful
historical account." Or is it? Read his review and find out.
Walking down to the mailbox has its advantages when you can encounter
views like these.
Got the parts but now lack the proper wrenches. Can't do the work
without the right tools. It's like trying to interpret a Greek letter
without knowing anything about discourse analysis.
I went to turn on the water to the outside spigots today and lo and
behold one of them had a tremendous leak.
Did I call a plumber? Are you kidding? I may not be the brightest light
in the candelabra, but I am bound and determined to do minor house
repairs by myself!
The first step was
to determine the exact source of the leak. So into the crawl space I
slithered, as nimbly as any snake you've ever seen. And sure enough,
Watson, the leak was coming from the inside and not the outside!
Self, what to do
next? I inquired. Aha! I'll grab my handy hacksaw and cut the PVC
pipe close to the leak but also in a place where I can work on the
project easily. Eh voila -- the pipe came out easily!
Now the next step
is going to be a little tricky but at least I'll have the advice of the
experts at Home Depot. I predict I'll need two items: (1) A new section
of pipe, and (2) a connector of some sort to hold the pieces of pipe
together. I believe they make couplets that are somehow glued onto the
PVC. Am I right? We're about to find out.
be translating the entire book of Philippians plus improving our
syntax plus learning how to do exegesis plus studying
linguistics plus increasing our word power. Small wonder students
call this course "Greek on Steroids."
P.S. If you can't
make this session, I'll also be teaching a section of the course during
the fall semester.
After Wednesday's Greek class a student came up to me and said, "Greek
is awesome. It's so exciting to be reading the text in the original
language." Enthusiasm was splashed all over her face. And the thing is:
Greek is not required for her degree program. She's taking it as an
elective. May her tribe increase!
Found these thoughts over at Jody Neufeld's blog:
Take a moment right
now and remember your mistakes from yesterday. Maybe you didn’t
speak to your spouse with kindness but with sharpness. Maybe you
didn’t call your friend because you just didn’t feel like hearing
her/his problems. Maybe you griped about having to work on a past
holiday and didn’t get any extra pay. God forgives you. Yes, He
does. Just ask Him. He does. Every time – because of Jesus. Now –
let it go – and let’s learn from our mistakes and move on and not
repeat that one! God is faithful.
How did the great C. S. Lewis learn Greek? The
answer might surprise you. It did me!
Once again it's my privilege to call your attention to the work of the
Lord in Ethiopia. What an opportunity the believers in Zobechame have to
influence their Muslim neighbors for Christ! Yes, being a Christian in
Alaba is dangerous, risky, and often unpleasant. But servanthood in the
name of Jesus is the normal Christian life. Bond-slavery, like marriage,
implies total allegiance!
Speaking of Andy Bowden, he's just expanded his list of German-speaking
universities offering the Ph.D. in New Testament. Check it out below or
website. Let's all wish Andy well as he flies to Germany next month
to interview at several different schools.
Focus: Hermeneutik und Theologie des Neuen Testaments,
Paulus und Synoptiker, Wunder und Auferstehung,
Religions- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte Palästinas,
Biblische Intertextualität / Intertextualität jüdischer
und frühchristlicher Schriften, Bibel in der
Gegenwartskultur, Semiotik und Methodologie,
Publications (see above)
Focus: Paulinische Theologie, Neutestamentliche
Hermeneutik und Methodologie(n), Biblische
Intertextualität, Bibeldidaktik, Bibel in der
Gegenwartskultur, Bibel in Liturgie, Predigt und
Publications: (see above)
Focus: Intertextuality between OT and NT, Missions,
David du Toit
Focus: 1. Research into early Christianity in the
conditions of Graeco-Roman culture (particular emphasis
on the construction of the cultural encyclopedia
presumed in early Christian texts); 2. Semantics and
lexicography of early Christian Greek; 3. The historical
construction of specific sub-aspects of the history of
theology in early Christianity (esp. Jesus research, the
development of Christology, theologies of the synoptists);
4. Application of findings and methods drawn from
linguistics, literary analysis and semiotics to the
interpretation of early Christian texts.
focus: Paulusforschung, Hermeneutik und Theologie des
Neuen Testaments im interdisziplinären Dialog,
Synoptikerforschung, Ethik und Soziologie des Neuen
Testaments, Kommentar der Thessalonicherbriefe für den
Theologischen Handkommentar zum Neuen Testament (ThHK),
Edition des wissenschaftlichen Briefwechsels von Rudolf
Ekkehard W. Stegemann
Focus: Paulusforschung, insbesondere Römerbrief,
Sozialgeschichte des Urchristentums, Entstehung des
Christentums im Rahmen antiker Kulturen,
Mr Andrew Bowden, BA (Toccoa Falls College), MDiv
(Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary)
ThM student under Dr. David Black
I am a ThM student at Southeastern Baptist Theological
Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. Before beginning my current
degree, which involves a thesis relating to discourse analysis and the
Epistle of James, I completed a BA at Toccoa Falls College, Georgia
(2006), and an MDiv at Southeastern (2010). Upon completion of my
current degree, I hope to pursue doctoral studies in the field of New
The Epistle of James
Linguistics and New Testament Interpretation
New Testament Greek
New Testament Exegesis
Slept 13 hours last night. I think I'm fighting a head cold or
something. Time for Vit C.
AMRobert McQuilkin, president of Columbia
International University, resigned from his post in 1990 to care for
his wife who had been battling Alzheimer's disease. Someone "just happened" to record a portion of his resignation speech. Here is
that recording of Robertson sharing about why he resigned.
It is reminder to me
that love is always a choice. I can choose to care about my
relationships. The choice to do so often leads to great pain but also to
great rewards. Robert McQuilkin knew that
demonstrating a selfless love for others is the strongest base for
building lasting relationships. He recognized his wife's need for
companionship and for a feeling of togetherness and harmony. What a
man values he takes good care of. Christ put it this way: "Where
your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Watch the video and be
blessed -- and challenged.
AMThe blogosphere is abuzz with posts about the
value of New Testament Greek in ministry:
You'll enjoy both essays and especially the
comments at Rod's site (Carl Conrad jumps into the discussion). It's funny, really, how we Greek students can get
carried away sometimes. We make such a big deal about this word or
that tense and get all worked up over it, when we are possibly just
over-exegeting the text. Recently I've been studying the New
Testament passages dealing with reconciliation, peace, harmonious
relationships, etc. Many of these texts come from the hand of Paul:
Rom. 12:18: "If at all possible, so far as it
depends on you, be at peace with all people."
1 Thess. 5:13: "Be at peace among yourselves."
Rom. 14:19: "So then let us pursue the things
that make for peace and mutual edification."
And the clincher (2 Cor. 13:11):
restoration, comfort one another, agree with each other, and be at
peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you."
You might get the idea that Paul pursued peace at
any price. But that's clearly not the case. Acts 15:39 refers to a
disagreement he had with Barnabas. The disagreement was so sharp
that they parted ways. I was reading one commentator who emphasized
the Greek word translated "sharp disagreement." He likened it to
volcanic eruption. Paul and Barnabas, he insisted, had had a
That's a little strong, I think. The same Greek
word is used in Heb. 10:24 where it is rendered "provoke" or "stir
up." Nothing violent or angry there! Don't get me wrong. Paul and
Barnabas may have had a violent disagreement. They may have even
yelled at each other. But there is nothing in the text that would
demand this interpretation. Nor does the Greek word require it.
For whatever reasons (and they were probably
theological in nature), Paul decided that he could not agree with
Barnabas about Mark. Either side could have compromised. Paul could
have taken Mark along on probation. Barnabas could have given in to
Paul, just this once, and gone without his cousin. The fact is, Paul
and Barnabas had a legitimate difference of opinion, and neither was
willing to yield. A rift was unavoidable, yet God used it to send
forth two missionary teams instead of one; and, of course, Paul and
Mark were later reconciled.
Carl Conrad is absolutely correct when he wrote,
in the comment thread to Rod's post:
There is just so much more involved in
understanding a text than being able to read the text in its
original language. I’m glad to be able to read the GNT, but I think
it would be presumptuous to think that for that reason alone I have
greater insight into what the original writer intended.
In my study of the New Testament concept of
peace and reconciliation, I intend to make full use of my Greek New
Testament – but not, I hope, to the exclusion of some old-fashioned
AMA colleague of mine is beginning a series on
Philippians in his local church. He asked me, "If you were to say in
a paragraph or less what we must take from this precious letter what
would it be?"
What a great question!
I wrote back:
The only thing that
matters in life is to live as good citizens of heaven in a way that
is required by the Gospel of Jesus Christ (1:27). Life boils down to
one purpose: To live for Christ. To know Him, and to make Him known.
I must put the Gospel first in my life, which means that I must act
like Jesus, who deliberately put himself in the humblest human
condition because he loved others more than he loved himself. By
losing my life I will find it! Dying, I live! I have the privilege
of not only believing in him but of suffering for him! As David
Brainerd (died at age 36) put it, "I wanted to wear myself out in
service for his glory. I cared not how or where I lived, or what
hardships I went through, so that I could but gain souls for
Christ." I want to live that way. I want to be an
Epaphroditus who gambles his life away in the cause of the Good News.
I've asked Miss
Phyllis to send you a .pdf of my study of the discourse structure of
Philippians. It's all about the progress of the Gospel (and not joy,
which at best is a by-product of living for Jesus!).
I'll be praying for my friend's series on
Philippians. I plan to do one myself at Bethel Hill this summer. One last thought on Epaphroditus (Phil.
2:25-30). The text says he gambled his life away, "daringly exposing
himself to danger" (Hawthorne). Are you willing to take enormous
risks for the sake of the Gospel? To aid a friend in need?
AMEnter your typical Baptist church and you are
likely find a fulltime pastor with an assistant or two. In a New
Testament church you would find nothing of the sort. The earliest
Christians practiced team leadership. The responsibilities
were shared, and the benefits must have been enormous. At my home
church our pastor is going on sabbatical – which is the perfect
opportunity for our deacons to step up to the plate (as they are
eager to do). It is the perfect time to transition to elders (as we
are in the process of doing, under the direction of our pastors and
deacons). It will cost a lot, of course – caring for
the Body is time-consuming. But at least the burden will be shared.
How wise the early Christians were! How much we have to learn from
AMIn Mark class we discussed ever so briefly the
way the apostles went out 2 by 2 and how they were instructed not to
take anything for the journey except what was absolutely essential.
We compared what the Didache has to say about traveling
prophets who were in it for the money. Here's a summary:
If a visiting teacher remains
somewhere for three days, he's a false prophet (11:5).
If he takes anything from God's
people except for a loaf of bread, he's a false prophet (11:6).
If he asks for money, he's a
false prophet (11:6).
If someone says in the Spirit,
"give me money," do not listen to him (11:12).
Christian workers should work
for their own bread (12:3).
"In no way should anyone live
among you unemployed as a Christian" (12:4).
I have never stated this before on this website
but I mentioned it in class yesterday so I'll mention it here. Becky
and I have never charged a set fee for speaking. Never have, never
will. If we do receive an honorarium we put it right back into the