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May 2006 Blog Archives

Wednesday, May 31

6:45 AM Here's some Greek trivia for you. I've got a friend who used to teach at the theological seminary in Bad Liebenzell, Germany, which I had the privilege of visiting in 1986. It is a truly beautiful campus. While perusing their website I noticed this photo:

I just had to smile when I saw it. Can you tell which word is misspelled?

6:41 AM Yesterday while introducing the importance of Greek I emphasized that our messages need to be simple without being simplistic. For this reason, I urge my students not to use Greek in the pulpit as a normal practice. A great preacher is like an iceberg, I told them: you see 10 percent, but underneath you sense the 90 percent. Otherwise, we are to use the KISS method: Keep It Simple, Stupid. A great example of a preacher whose messages were simple without being simplistic was John Broadus. Here's a great snippet from his biography:

So simple were Dr. Broadus' sermons that some people were disappointed the first time they heard him preach. His simple language did not match his great reputation. However, as they pondered his message, they were eager to hear him a second time.

But here was no artless simplicity; it was the result of studious care. Dr. Broadus labored to make his message simple. He had learned from experience that the simple message was acceptable to every group. (One Sunday he preached a sermon to his congregation at Cedar Grove, a small country church in South Carolina; a week later he preached the same sermon at the Southern Baptist Convention in Atlanta, Georgia.) He believed strongly in clarity of thought and expression. In an article on "The American Baptist Ministry 100 Years Ago," he exclaimed, "Alas! for the education of the ministers of Jesus if it ceases to be true that the common people hear them gladly." He urged his students to cultivate clarity as a quality of style. Surely, this purposeful simplicity of style, which made his preaching understandable to every audience, was one of the factors which made his preaching so universally acceptable.

That's my kind of preaching.

6:35 AM Here's an email I just received from one of our Ethiopian sons:

Dear PapB
How are you doing? How is life going on with out Mam and Nethan with all responsibilities there? I hope that by Gods grace you would over come the challenges, though you are alone. Last Friday David and I finished our last exam. Now we are looking forward just for graduation. We have been enjoying with Mam, Grand Mama and Grand Papa, and Nethan. In all the times we had together we remember you. You have the footprints that left in our lives in every occasion. Your advises and teachings, the way you hag us, the words that you use which end with “mo”, Makyatosimo, Baribera, Chigrochyalum etc. Papa I love you. You are a gift from God for me. Any way, God is right in all the way he lead us. Tow weeks back Bruk told me that you have written a message for graduates. I printed it from your websight and we published it in our graduation year book. I will send it to you via Mama. I am praying about you. Let the grace of God be with you in all your activities you do. I love you VERY VERY MUCH.

With much love. Nigussie

A letter like this makes my heart ache for Ethiopia. Below: Joking around with Nigussie (center) and David (left).

6:29 AM The weather in Ethiopia has been a perfect 70 degrees daily. Here in Southside Virginia it's been hot, too hot even to get a ride in on Traveler. It's an opportunity, though, to get some writing done. I'm currently finishing one book and revising two others. I'm also writing a web article on an interesting phrase in Acts 5:13: "None of the other people dared to join them."

6:26 AM I'm a happy man because in just 5 short days Becky will be back home and life will get back to normal on the farm. I may just do black flips all the way to the airport instead of driving. As you can see, I'm definitely in final countdown mode. Meanwhile, by all accounts Becky and the rest are doing fine, and we're mighty grateful for your prayers.

6:22 AM We got off to a great start in Greek yesterday and now we must all rely on the Holy Spirit to maintain interest and give us the self-discipline and time management skills that are necessary not just to get by but to excel in the class. I don't want anyone to be like me -- dropping out after only a few lessons. In his diary Jim Elliott wrote that although the New Testament was familiar to him in English, when he read it in Greek it seemed as if he was reading it for the first time. That's the payoff, and we must never lose sight of the goal.

Tuesday, May 30

6:31 AM Speaking of teaching, I noticed this story about one of our recent grads named Daniel Ritchie. If this doesn't light your fire your wood is all wet. I like the part about people wanting to befriend Daniel out of pity but then receiving the greater blessing. This was exactly my experience when I chose for a college roommate a young Brazilian who had been born blind and could not hear without his hearing aids. Rubens -- who played the piano as well as the clarinet in the college band and was fluent in 4 romance languages -- was a great inspiration to me. We were together all 4 years and he was at my side when I first laid eyes on a Miss Becky Lapsley in the cafeteria line. I offered her a chocolate-covered Macadamia nut and, as they say, the rest is history.

6:27 AM My summer vacation is over. It lasted exactly five days. Today we begin yet another journey into the Greek language. It must have been an impressive sight, that first Greek course. Who offered it? Melanchthon? Erasmus? It would make headlines today, but teaching a summer school class in beginning Greek is old hat nowadays. Except for the 40 or so students who are taking it and are probably scared to death. I remember hearing the same horror stories 31 years ago when I took Greek for the first time, and the best refutation is a good textbook, a good teacher, and a good classroom. As for the instructor, I'll try my best to get out of the way and let the Lord do the teaching. He never messes up. Wish everyone success, will you?

6:24 AM Well, she's passed second base in good stride and will be rounding third heading for home on Sunday. I really wish you could read Becky's emails and see her heart for the ministry there in Africa. She's not only looking to the present but seeking God's will for our future work. Paul once wrote to the Romans that he hoped to go by them on his way to Spain because his eyes were always fixed on "regions beyond." That's my wife! What are the regions beyond that the Lord Jesus has in store for us? Time will tell, but one thing is certain: our current work in Ethiopia seems but an unfinished fragment. We must do the immediate work thoroughly, yet we are always touched by His compassion that drives us to new endeavors.

6:19 AM This is for all of you who have completed a year of Greek. In his new book A Beginner's Guide to New Testament Exegesis, Richard Erickson describes exegesis in a unique way. He says it's like keeping a ball rolling by nudges rather than starting it rolling each time from a complete stop. The ball keeps going unless the nudging stops. Erickson calls this a "crude analogy" but I think it's brilliant. The key is to never let the ball stop rolling, which is why we've got to tap it constantly, which means reading our Greek New Testaments daily.

Incidentally, I taught for Richard two summers at Fuller Seminary in Seattle, where he is the director. It was my first exposure to Starbucks coffee. I wasn't too excited about it then, and I still don't see why it is so popular today. I must be severely caffeine challenged.

6:13 AM May I offer another thought on having a Q & A time after preaching? While reading Acts 2 yesterday I noticed that Peter's message proceeded on the assumption that the crowd had the right to ask a question: "What does this mean?" I had never seen this before. Peter's response was simply to define the "this" for them: "Let this be know unto you." The lesson is that people have the right to enquire, so let's have a willingness to answer their enquiries. That's what Peter did. Note also that when Peter finished speaking the audience asked yet another question: "What shall we do?" Pastor friend:

Fear not questions!

Monday, May 29

9:23 AM I heard about yet another church that has been torn apart by a pastor who insisted on doing everything his way. His principles may have been biblically sound but his method was a complete failure. In 1990 Roger Smith resigned as Chairman of The General Motors Corporation, lamenting his failure to communicate effectively to his colleagues and employees his vision for the company. He had just presided over a 10-point drop in the company's share of the U.S. car market in 10 years. On his way out the door he offered these apologetic words:

I sure wish I'd done a better job of communicating with GM people. Then they would have known why I was tearing the place up, taking out whole divisions, changing our whole production structure.... I never got this across.

Why? Why do CEOs of U.S. corporations fail to communicate effectively? Why do pastors of local churches fail in the same way? Pastor friend, you are in a tough spot in many ways. I know. But you must love your people. Then love them some more. Earn the right to be heard and followed. Then people will want to imitate your faith as they carefully observe the impact of your life (see Heb. 13:7).

Yesterday I told this story during my message:

The new pastor was a big hit. Everybody loved his messages. The town skeptic asked a deacon what the new pastor was saying that was so much better than the former one. "Well," said the deacon, "our old pastor used to tell us we were all lost sinners. He told us that unless we repented we were all going to hell." The skeptic asked, "What does the new pastor say?" "The new pastor says we are all lost sinners, and that unless we repent we are all going to hell," said the deacon. "I can't see any difference at all," replied the skeptic. "Oh, there's a huge difference," said the deacon. "This pastor says it with tears in his eyes."

8:55 AM Charley Reese offers a popular-magazine-like piece called George Washington Had It Right. The trouble, of course, is that this truth is so simple and obvious it's practically invisible. After reading Charley's essay you will possibly want to read the U.S. Constitution yourself. I promise that you will find it a pleasant and rewarding indoor sport.

8:42 AM The other day I mentioned that you could read the weather in Latin, but now I see that you can access Wikipedia in Latin as well. Where do people find the time to do all this?

8:40 AM Did you know? Japanese is the biggest language in the blogosphere, and the number one blog in the world is in Chinese. Source: Technorati.

8:36 AM Edi Nachman discusses his reservations about Markan priority:

We know that the life of Jesus took place in a Jewish context. It was then later adapted for presentation to Gentile audiences. I believe then it is safe to assume that all things being equal, a Gospel that reflects the actual context of the life and ministry of Jesus, is likely to precede one that has been adapted for a new context. If we apply this to our gospels, all things being equal we would expect the Jewish oriented Gospel of Matthew to precede the far more Gentile oriented Luke and Mark. If this hypothesis were true we would predict that in the second century there would be more sources using this original tradition than the adapted gospel which applied to Gentile audiences. And this is exactly what we find. Matthew’s gospel is cited far more regularly than Mark and Luke put together. This does not mean we can be certain as to who wrote first but can go to helping us come to the most reasonable conclusion in light of the complexity of the issue and the paucity of evidence.

8:32 AM This is very sad news: a missionary to Ethiopia dies after being electrocuted. God be with his family.

8:27 AM As I type this I'm surrounded by two little furry meteors called Shelties. They have been my constant companions since Becky left and are as happy as clams to get daddy all to themselves. Shiloh is almost 10 years old and beginning to show his age. Sheba is a young whipper-snapper and definitely the more energetic one. Both need time and attention, which are two commodities I've got plenty of these days.

8:20 AM Check out these Bible quizzes.

8:16 AM Great news! Becky says she is feeling rested and so is everyone else. Our Lord is not only our Savior, He is our Sustenance. They will be spending the next few days in Hosanna and returning to the capital on Thursday.

Sunday, May 28

7:02 PM Although I won't be going to see The Da Vinci Code, many are planning on using the movie as an opportunity for sharing the Gospel. More power to them. In John 12:9 many came to see Lazarus and ended up believing in Jesus. Curiosity is not enough but sometimes it gets a person within reach of the Gospel message.

6:55 PM Our 20-minute Q & A time this morning was excellent. I think this should be a regular habit when we teach/preach. If we don't know how to bring the mystery above down into the mire below or know how to come from the clouds to the cobblestones, then we have a major problem in communication. This is where the rubber meets the road or (as we used to say in California) where the chili meets the cheese.

6:28 PM I had a one and a half hour commute (each way) to my speaking assignment this morning. Usually Becky and I are together, but today I tuned into the classical music station and was treated to Brahm's German Requiem on the way there and Gustav Holst's The Planets on the way home. Classical music doesn't get any better than that. Thank you, Lord.

6:20 PM In exactly one week (Sunday, 6:20 pm) Team Ethiopia is scheduled to land in Raleigh. Looks like Nathan will be among them after all as the materials he needed for construction will not be ready for several weeks. Tomorrow they are off to mom and dad's first mission station -- Hosanna in Hadiya. Get this: the school rooms that dad built 50 years ago with his own hands are still in use today.

6:37 AM Just before our commencement ceremony at the seminary a colleague began singing the Hawaii 5-0 theme song and the music has been floating around in my head ever since. I can't seem to forget it. How can people create such unforgettable music? I often joke to people that the only Hawaiian I know anymore is "Aloha" and "Book 'em, Danno."

6:32 AM The possibility of avian flu may affect my plans to travel to Romania this fall. It's not the flu that has people worried but the government's overreaction.

6:30 AM Greek students! On Tuesday we'll be learning the Greek alphabet, but if you want to get a head start you can go here, here, and here. Meanwhile, get ready to learn the Greek alphabet song (p. 200 of my grammar). We may even rap it.

6:26 AM During my morning devotions in Ephesians this statement jumped off the page: "Make every possible effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Markus Barth writes that the sense of "make every effort" is: "Yours is the initiative! Do it now! Pay any price! Spare no pain! You are to do it! In the light of the beauty of community and the staggering cost the Trinity paid to invite us into it, we dare not take it lightly."

6:23 AM Darrell Bock of Dallas Seminary reviews The Da Vinci Code. His conclusion is vintage Bock:

The film offers an awkward, secular attempt to grasp for a type of faith without divinity, whose message is, essentially: All that matters is to believe something, even if that something has nothing to do with truth and lacks any real substance. Ads for the movie challenge us to "seek the truth," but in the end, there is little truth worth seeking in the story's groping for a coherent spiritual message.

Saturday, May 27

8:57 PM A wrong number got me out of bed this morning in time to witness a beautiful purple sunrise in the east, and tonight I saw the scene repeated in the west when I walked the dogs at sunset. Nice serendipities. By the way, in 2004 the word "serendipity" was voted as 1 of the 10 English words that were hardest to translate.

2:41 PM As a Christian have you gone from spectatorism to service yet? That's the topic of tomorrow's message from Ephesians 4 at Raleigh Chinese Christian Church. I think much of the weakness in the church today is due to an inadequate work ethic. Laziness, pure, unadulterated laziness, characterizes evangelicalism. Warming a pew and listening to a few alliterated sermons does not change us. The New Testament community (church) is intensely corporate, and there is grace not only for salvation (Eph. 2:8-9) but also grace for mutual service ("But to each one of us grace has been given," Eph. 4:7). The good news is that I'm seeing more and more of God's people rolling up their shirtsleeves and getting involved in every member ministry. Serving others in the Body is not an option, and hiring professionals to do the work while we "listen and leave" is self-defeating. Such is the gist of my message tomorrow. I plan to have a Q & A time with the congregation after I speak.

2:02 PM I've just updated our Unleashing the Church page.

8:12 AM The rain held off and we had a great time at the Norlina Christian School commencement last night. It's been several years since I've been in a hot, noisy high school gym, but the ceremony went off very well I thought. The headmaster, Abidan Shah, was my former teaching fellow at the seminary for two years and is now doing a superb job with his team at Norlina. Last night there were a total of 9 graduates. When I graduated from Kailua High School in 1970 there were a thousand of us. As I write this, a sudden image of all the pranks pulled during my graduation ceremony comes to mind. Glad these were conspicuously absent last night. Three of the graduates, by the way, will be enrolling at Liberty University in the fall. Seems that's the university of choice in Norlina. I wish them all well.

7:35 AM They're back in Addis! Becky, Nathan, mom, dad, and their driver Marcos arrived safely last night and Becky fired off an email. Their stay in Alaba was amazing:

Hi, honey!  It's after 10:00pm...we've been back about an hour.  Had a GREAT GREAT GREAT trip!!!  Wow!  What a ministry our Lord has given to us!  Our time in Alaba was very productive.  We arrived after church was released, but we went almost immediately into our women's talk (which lasted about 11/2 hours  & was SO rich!!!, we gave all the gospel bracelets), then the whole congregation returned for another church service for 2 hours; at this service all 4 of us spoke a message & mom played several flute numbers. Then I went straight into a meeting with the rural leaders, explaining the Bible memory & church building program, the memory charts, methods to help with memorization, etc.; I passed out the vitamin bottles also.  And I gave a commentary on Gospel of John & I Corinthians, with a word that the elders need to read these & then teach the information to their congregations.  The rural leaders are SO SO excited about what is happening!  I can't tell it all, but will just give you a brief report now.

Then it was on to Burji, mom and dad's final mission station near Kenya:

On Wednesday, we stayed in town/on campus; I'd guess about 10 students came. It was a good time.  I had some good meetings with Oshe & got caught up on the building.  Also, Nathan began his own ministry as construction advisor. I also say the blind boy with the brain tumor again; he's deteriorating quickly.  I gave him some codeine tablets for the pain, but his end is likely to come soon; already it's metastasized to the spine.  I'll write details later.

Becky's parents are holding up well:

Mom & Dad are doing GREAT in their health & fortitude.  No respiratory
problems, no shoulder pains, no major aches/pains.  I was SO PROUD of Mom, insisting on climbing that hill to the church...she did great, we just took it slowly with frequent rests.  On that hike (or sometime in Alaba), I got bitten royally on my legs, but they seem to be healing well.

So is Nathan:

Nathan's doing great.  The construction boo-boo he discovered is that the
churches are building the foundations wrong, so that the wood in the walls
have no protection from the termites...they have protection only from water. So he's eager to teach them the correct way to build a foundation.  While in Burji, he explained & demonstrated to the contractor, who had never heard of this problem, but was eager to learn; so the Burji church needs to "retro-fit" the foundation under the walls & they are willing to do this, even tho it will cost extra.  Nathan would like to stay an extra week &
return to Alaba to teach them in building the rural churches how to do it
correctly.  So we've sent word to gather the foundation materials, but do
not start to build anything; also they are to gather all the rural leaders
and the Town church coordinator, so that all are present to watch Nathan lay the foundation correctly.  So I need to contact Lufthansa tomorrow to see about changing his flight.  How I would love to stay that week with him, but my place is with mom & dad.

Just a brief observation. There are many great partnerships in the Scriptures that give us a model of working together for the Gospel. Paul himself realized he could never operate well without partners, so he linked up with others called "fellow-soldiers," "brothers," or "yokefellows." It's clear that Paul did not like to be without teammates in the work of the Lord. Each of you who prays for this work in Ethiopia is a partner in our ministry. I am sure that Becky could never have written such a positive email without your partnership. Someone once said that 1 draft horse can move 2 tons of weight, but 2 draft horses, working together, can move 23 tons of weight. For many of us our first-line partner is our spouse. I know that's true for me. But I also realize that many of you have banded with us so that God might use us more effectively, and I thank you for that. There is only one thing to say: Praise be to God.

Friday, May 26

7:10 AM Off to graduation. Here's hoping the tassels were worth the hassles!

7:08 AM I want to extend a big Friday shout-out to those of you who signed up for the Five Minute Greek Club. In case you don't know, I formed this club for my beginning Greek students. There are no dues, and we never meet. You must simply sign on the dotted line promising that you will translate two verses daily from your Greek New Testament for the entire summer. The truth is, if you don't practice, you will easily lose what you worked so hard to acquire. The rule to practice is as old as Aristotle, who wrote: "To learn to play the flute, you have to play the flute." You can read every Greek textbook ever published but wouldn't be able to translate a single verse without constant practice in the text. I can't think of an activity that doesn't improve with practice. I can recite from memory numerous passages from my Greek New Testament, not because I intentionally memorized them but simply because I've read them so often. During all this reading the words were being imprinted on my mind. So to all who joined this "prestigious" club, a tip of the kepi.

7:02 AM Thought I would pass along some good news. Finney Matthews is back in the States. I bumped into him at the nursing home in Clarksville yesterday while I was making the rounds. Finney is a Southeastern grad who used to pastor over at Gravel Hill Baptist Church near our farm before returning to his home in India with Alpha Ministries (whose advisory board I serve on) for two years. He and his family have just moved to Forth Worth, where Finney will begin his doctoral studies. God's richest blessings on all of you.

7:00 AM Everyone is counting down the minutes. Ok, so I'm the only one. Just 9 days, 11 hours, and 20 minutes until my bride lands at RDU.

Thursday, May 25

8:15 AM So what am I doing while Becky is gone? Watering the garden, feeding the chickens, collecting the eggs (yesterday I gathered 30), checking on the goats and cattle, riding Traveler, answering emails, working on messages (one tomorrow night, another one on Sunday), prepping for my Greek course (starts on Tuesday), and editing DBO. Do I miss Becky? Desperately. That's why I've got to keep active. Here's my schedule for today: 1) Feed chickens. 2) Check pasture and fencing. 3) Eat breakfast. 4) Finish my commencement speech. 5) Visit shut-ins. 6) Ride Trav. 7) Collect and wash eggs. 8) Check emails. 9) Cook supper. 10) Wash dishes. 11) Take dogs for long walk. 12) Read. 13) Pray. 14) Lights out. I've been up since 5:30 and have already had my devotions in the wonderful book of Ephesians.

8:12 AM Overheard at church last night (with reference to a man who had just passed away): "You don't measure a snake until it's dead."

8:10 AM Yesterday a student asked me with whom I had studied in Basel. It was with the Swedish scholar Bo Reicke. The student had never heard of him. My how times have changed. Working with Prof. Reicke was a sort of graduate school education in itself, sweetened by a man who was deeply experienced in his knowledge of the New Testament and one of the top scholars in all of Europe. I can never adequately express my gratitude to this one gentleman. In a lifetime of associating with great and good men, he is the one to whom I owe an incalculable debt.

7:40 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Got Any Splanchna?

7:34 AM Today I am asking the Lord to give Becky and her parents a wonderful reunion at their old mission station in Gambo. I am especially praying for their strength. Traveling in Ethiopia is not easy. And being with people day in and day out is exhausting. It's tiring because people draw from us our inner energy levels in a way that even the most demanding physical labor doesn't. You can't do spiritual work without spiritual energy going out of you. Jesus lived a pressurized life but when He traveled He moved on foot. I imagine He enjoyed the long hours of quietness in the countryside on those walks. On our trips to and from Ethiopia it is more like frantically jetting around -- breakfast in Frankfurt, supper in Addis, lunch the next day in Awassa. My point is that the pace of life in New Testament times was more serene due to the practical obstacles we have removed today by our high speed travel and communications. Exhaustion of spirit and even loss of spiritual passion can be the result. When mom and dad sailed to Ethiopia in 1954 the slowness of the ship granted the opportunity for relaxation, study, and spiritual restoration. They hit the ground running. Today the pace is much more hectic.

7:30 AM Final grades are done and turned in. Congratulations to all of you. May you be a pleasure to God and a light to the world.

Wednesday, May 24

6:56 AM Today my number one priority is averaging scores and calculating final grades. I plan to turn my grades in this week, and no later. My assistant, Emmanuel Cakpo (who is from Benin, West Africa), will be helping me. Incidentally, Emmanuel is a francophone and has been helping me with my terrible French pronunciation.

6:53 AM So many good things happened this semester that it's difficult to name them all. But a highlight was watching my textual criticism students develop their own approach to the topic and leave the course confident about how to read the bottom half of their Greek New Testaments. We have some who espouse Elliott's thorough-going eclecticism, while others are more comfortable with Robinson's Byzantine priority theory. There were even a few students who tended to side with Sturz, though in no way was this view foisted on anybody. I asked how many of them might want to go on for a Ph.D. in textual criticism and to my astonishment several indicated they had such an interest. To me, the field is white unto harvest, but the laborers are few, so I am excited about the interest I saw.

6:50 AM Yesterday I counseled several students who are thinking about going on for their doctorates. I generally walk them through a few standard questions that I think are essential issues to work through before deciding on a school or program. The last and most important question is: "With whom do you want to study?" Christian education is essentially likeness education (Luke 6:40), and we become like those with whom we study, for good or for ill.

6:45 AM Becky has been incommunicado since Sunday, but email service is practically non-existent  where she is now traveling. As soon as I hear anything I'll pass it on. For a day-to-day prayer schedule, go here. Meanwhile, many of you have been sending along encouraging emails, which are greatly appreciated. Thank you for caring -- and especially for praying for our missionary team in Africa.

6:43 AM A big Wednesday shout-out to my neighbors Allan and Thomas-Gray Hayes for their help with baling our hay yesterday. Those round bales will come in handy next winter.

6:41 AM Reminder! Plan now to attend our next New Testament symposium on campus, April 13-14, 2007. The topic is the ending of Mark's Gospel. Again, the speakers are Dan Wallace, Maurice Robinson, Keith Elliott, Darrell Bock, and yours truly. I assure you an enjoyable time will be had by all. Here's a pic from our last conference. See if you can identify all 18 of us.

Here's some help. From left to right: Lanier, Osborne, Elliott, Allen, Silva, Robinson, Kistemaker, Holmes, Blomberg, Farmer, Black, Epp, Bock, Guthrie, McKnight, Beck, and Cowen. President Patterson bows humbly before this mass of erudition. Meanwhile, the seminary is working on a symposium webpage and .pdf brochure that you can download and copy. As soon as these are available I will link to them here.

Tuesday, May 23

6:21 AM What's the shortest verse in the New Testament? It's 1 Thess. 5:16: "Always rejoice." ("Jesus wept" is three words in Greek). Easy to say, difficult to practice. May He help you to experience His great joy today.

6:19 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Honoring Our Wives.

6:18 AM As a student of ancient Greek I want to put in a plug for the study of Latin, which I am asking most of my Ph.D. students to learn. There are dozens of excellent Latin websites today such as Latin is the basis for much of what passes today as English ("Been there, done that" was originally Caesar's veni, vidi, vici), and many home scholars have benefited from learning Latin grammar before studying Greek (though one could start with either language, I suppose). Just for fun, here's a couple of "modern" Latin sayings to get you started:

  • Nunc Tutus Exitus Computarus (It is now safe to turn off your computer).
  • Veni, Vidi, Velcro (I came, I saw, I stuck around).

There's even a site where you can get the weather in Latin. So what's stopping you?

Monday, May 22

7:59 AM Yesterday in my message from Philippians 4:1-5 I mentioned my favorite rendering of the word Paul uses in v. 5 which is often translated "gentleness." My favorite translation? "Bigheartedness." This is the term William Hendriksen uses in his classic commentary on Philippians. This morning I was thinking, Who do I know that is "bighearted" like this, and I thought immediately of my wife Becky. In fact, I wrote about this over a year ago, comparing her heart to that of the famous race horse Secretariat. You can read it here.

7:51 AM Nice BBC essay here on the social dimensions of the internet.

7:48 AM This is going to be a fairly light week on campus for me. Other than giving oral exams to my advanced Greek students and completing my grading, I have several appointments with students and some writing projects I need to complete. The weather has been gorgeous and I may try to get some laps in at the local pool. My summer school Greek class starts in exactly 8 days.

7:43 AM Tonight some guys from Bethel Hill Baptist Church are taking me out to a local restaurant for supper. I think this is the same group that wants to start studying Greek. They're insisting I order a steak. And it's not even Dutch treat. Will be fun, but I'm missing Becky big time even though I know she's spreading sunshine in a very dark place. For some reason George Beverly Shea's rendition of "I'd Rather Have Jesus" keeps buzzing around in my head.

7:34 AM Somebody asked me if we got our hay baled. Nathan was able to do several square bales before leaving last Thursday, but there is still some grass on the ground. A neighboring farmer will be helping me spread it out today (so it can dry) and then we'll round bale it later in the week.  We have a saying around here: "A good neighbor is a fellow who smiles at you over the back fence but doesn't climb over it." Except when you need help.

7:30 AM Today I am trying to finish an essay on a husband's responsibility to honor his wife. We hear much these days about a wife's submission but little about the need for a wife to feel respected. My text is 1 Peter 3:7.

Sunday, May 21

6:34 AM Just added to my speaking schedule: Green Run Baptist Church in Virginia Beach, VA. I'll be there Saturday evening and Sunday morning, August 19-20. I note that recent speakers include my good friend Voddie Baucham and Donald Whitney.

6:30 AM Today and next Sunday I will be at the Raleigh Chinese Christian Church (RCCC), an ethnically-Chinese church with Mandarin, Cantonese, and English congregations. It's not actually in Raleigh but in Cary, NC, nestled between Durham and Raleigh. Naturally, I will be addressing the English-speaking group. I am very excited about this congregation. It has a great group dynamic and I love to see and hear what God is doing in their lives. I sense a ripeness for spiritual fruit and a hunger for the word of God.

6:23 AM Stop the presses! I just discovered that I have all the ingredients to cook spaghetti tonight for supper, including farm fresh beef and tomatoes. It won't be nearly as good as Becky Lynn's, but it will have to do. I think I'll make enough to last until Wednesday.

6:20 AM Ethiopia update (Day 3): Becky reports that the church in Alaba is holding a special service this afternoon for the returning missionaries. Also, Becky and her mom will be holding a class for women while Nathan teaches the young men and dad meets with the Alaba translation team. Representatives from the Deda church will also be on hand. You will recall that this is the church where two-thirds of the congregation of 300 have memorized Scripture passages and will be receiving Amharic Bibles. Time permitting, Becky and her parents plan to visit the old hotel where they stayed when they passed through Alaba in the mid-1960s. Becky still remembers the bed bugs and the cries of the hyenas. Speaking personally, I was overjoyed to be able to visit Alaba last winter. Becky and I did a great deal of teaching and evangelism, especially among the Muslims in the countryside. I can't wait to hear how Zemete is doing (we brought her to Addis for obstetric fistula surgery) and how Mohamed is doing in prison (the last time I visited him I took him a Bible). On our last evening in Alaba town our host family and the church elders presented us with water jugs and traditional Ethiopian clothing. Today Becky will be reunited with this family and with our brethren in that persecuted region.

Saturday, May 20

11:38 AM Almost forgot to mention it, but one of my students has just posted his essay on the purpose for the assembling of the New Testament church. It's excellent. Go here for a hyperlink to the .pdf file.

11:32 AM The cows have been moved. I didn't need Trav after all. Mimicking Nate's "cow call" they simply followed me, docilely, right through the gate and into their new home.

10:28 AM Right now it's 5:28 pm in Addis Ababa. Current temperature: a perfect 77 degrees. Dinner is at 6 o'clock. I imagine all the ladies are getting into their beautiful Ethiopian dresses for the occasion. I wish I could be there to hear Emebet play and sing her original praise songs in Amharic. As for me, I've got to move all the cattle into another pasture today. Maybe I should saddle up Traveler and round them up on horseback. Wouldn't that be a trip.

9:23 AM Tonight is the big family dinner at the Dashen restaurant in Addis. Six of our eight Ethiopian sons will be there. Here's a photo taken at the Dashen during our visit to Ethiopia last winter.

From left to right you are looking at:

1) David, from the Muslim province of Alaba. David was born "Ahmed" and was one of the first converts to Christianity in his village. On June 3 he will graduate from the Evangelical Theological College (ETC) in Addis Ababa and then be returning to Alaba. He is a very gifted evangelist and teacher.

2) Biruk, from Hosanna in Hadiya. Hosanna was one of my in-laws' mission stations. Biruk's passion and love for the Lord Jesus is incomparable. He is graduating from Addis Ababa Bible College on May 27.

3) Bereket, from Gonder. He was born "Azanou" ("Sorrow") and was essentially blind until his cornea transplant last September, when he also received spiritual sight. His new name ("Blessing") is most appropriate: he already is a huge blessing to everyone who knows him.

4) Samuel, also from Hadiya. Samuel is finishing his first year at ETC. He and Bereket plan to do village-to-village evangelism this summer in Gonder. Samuel has a gigantic servant's heart.

5) Fasil, from Addis. Fasil is finishing his masters degree in biblical studies and teaching New Testament and Greek at ETC. He has been our indispensable "Timothy" during our trips to Ethiopia. I think he loves his Greek New Testament almost as much as I do mine. Fasil is loved by all.

6) Nigussie, also from Alaba. Nigussie is graduating from ETC and plans to return to serve the Lord in Alaba. Like his compatriot David, he is very gifted in evangelism and teaching.

To say that we enjoy our family meals would be a gross understatement.

9:08 AM I recently mentioned I've been giving a lot of thought and prayer to what I should say when I give some commencement remarks next Friday. Odd, but just as I was waking up this morning the Lord put into my mind the exact message I should bring, including the Scripture. He doesn't do this very often, and certainly not when I am only half awake.

8:48 AM So guess what I just did? Read an email from my beloved. None of their luggage got lost, and her mom and dad slept for about 5 hours on the plane between Frankfurt and Khartoum; the flight had many empty seats, which is very unusual. Becky and her mother changed into their national Ethiopian dresses to arrive in. All of our adopted children, including Emebet, came to the airport to meet them, carrying long-stem red roses for each. 

And here's a blessing: the CD duplicator Becky took with her is now banned. Our son Biruk became Becky’s advocate, explaining that it would be used solely for church work, so the customs officials decided to let her bring it into the country, charging a 100 percent tariff ($415). As Becky put it, “Hopefully our Lord will use this machine for His Kingdom mightily and the cost will reap great benefits!” Isn’t the Lord good?

One more thing. Becky tells me that Nathan is a big hit with everybody. That doesn't surprise me at all.

Friday, May 19

8:35 AM This family is committed to serving at Bingham Academy in Addis Ababa, where my wife went to boarding school as a child. Let's pray for them as they begin their new ministry. And remember: "Bingham Academy still needs staff."

8:12 AM Exactly one year ago the disputed elections in Ethiopia took place. I can still remember hearing gunfire just outside the guesthouse where we were staying as the government clamped down on protesters. Herman Cohen, former US assistant secretary of state for Africa, sums up the current situation well:

The political situation is still very discouraging. You have journalists in prison. You have no explanation for the deaths of demonstrating students, a stalemate between Ethiopia and Eritrea with very high tension on the border. Ethiopia is not in a very happy situation. When you have such a situation, there is no investment and the people of Ethiopia seem condemned to underdevelopment and annual handouts of humanitarian aid.

So what to do? What Paul says in Philippians: Pray about our circumstances instead of worrying over them; commit our problems to God, trusting that He will provide deliverance; allow the peace of God to set up a military guard to protect our minds from harmful external influences; intercede in prayer on behalf of political leaders, remembering that God is the ultimate Sovereign; and rejoice in the midst of all situations.

6:23 AM I've just published Becky's itinerary for her mission trip. It's called Return to Ethiopia. The purpose of this trip is essentially threefold: to facilitate what may be mom and dad's last visit; to follow up on our previous visits (Becky will be doing teacher training and training on the use of the laptops and projectors we left there); and to lay the groundwork for future work as the Lord Jesus directs. Please join me in praying for Becky, Nathan, and Mr. and Mrs. Lapsley.

6:20 AM Ashley Hodge discusses stewardship goals in this excellent piece. It's a good example of blogging that edifies the saints. Here's one formulation I found especially felicitous:

My central focus in doing all of this is not to feel good about myself or to practice a form of legalism that has no beneficial effect on my soul. My main objective is that Christ may increase in my life and that I might decrease- John 3:30. Our lives become more joyful and meaningful as our God-centeredness increases.

Amen to that.

6:15 AM A Delta pilot who was flying on 9/11 reflects on United 93. Our air traffic controllers may well be the forgotten heroes of September 11.

6:12 AM Mrs. Carmon Friedrich has posted another well-balanced and thoughtful essay on homeschooling. Read Rick Saenz’s comment too, if you can.

6:10 AM Here’s one on education from the keyboard of Joel Turtel, who favors us with his usual vigorous style:

Public-school teaching is structured in such a way that it inevitably bores millions of normal, active children who are forced to sit in classrooms six to eight hours a day with about twenty other immature children. The teacher has to cover the curriculum, so she is pressured to teach all the kids the same material in the same way. Few teachers have the time or patience to know each child's unique personality, interests, strengths, or weaknesses, or give different instruction to each student.

Middle-school and high-school children often have to learn subjects they can't relate to, are not interested in, or that frustrate them, such as history, trigonometry, or foreign languages. As a result, many students get bored, watch the clock, and wait for the school day to end.

Classroom "learning" usually consists of forcing students to read dumbed-down textbooks, memorizing facts from these textbooks, and then regurgitating these meaningless facts on dumbed-down tests. Like Pavlov's obedient dogs, students go from gym to math to English literature to American history every hour at the sound of each period's bells. Their day consists of disconnected lectures on disconnected subjects. Each class lasts only fifty minutes, so their train of thought breaks off at the sound of the bell.

Young children in elementary school have natural high energy, and each child has his or her own unique personality. Most teachers simply don't have the time or patience to teach different material or use different teaching methods with each child. Just being cramped into a classroom with twenty other children and told to learn certain tasks by an adult they may not like, can annoy or frustrate many normal, high-energy, but emotionally immature children with a will of their own.

Overworked teachers are under a lot of pressure today. They must teach many students in their classes, cover the curriculum, test and grade the students, and prove to parents and the principal that their students are learning and doing well in their studies. Even worse, a teacher's job may now be threatened or she could be disciplined if her students do poorly on the new standardized tests. The No Child Left Behind Act puts pressure on teachers and principals to make sure students pass these tests because the school can lose funding if students' test grades don't measure up to minimum standards.

Thursday, May 18

8:30 AM Off to the airport.

Wednesday, May 17

6:29 PM Mom and dad arrived safely are we are now getting ready to go to our Wednesday evening service. They look great, seem rested, and are raring to go. Tomorrow I'll publish their complete itinerary.

6:24 PM Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee, announces an opening in Hebrew/Old Testament.

6:22 PM SIM has a list of mission opportunities in Ethiopia in case you’re interested in learning more about this amazing country.

6:20 PM As part of my personal preparation for speaking at the commencement at Norlina Christian Academy on May 26, I am reading addresses given by famous Bible characters. About half of the Book of Acts is comprised of speeches given by such people as city clerks, governors, lawyers, silversmiths, and Pharisees. I suppose my favorite address is the brief message Paul gave to his fellow believers at the end of his first missionary journey (Acts 14:23). It can be summed up in one sentence: “You’re gonna face lots of troubles in this world before you get into the kingdom of heaven.” The Bible calls this an “encouraging” message, and so it is. It’s also realistic. I want these students to see that being a Christian is worth the trouble it involves, and that if they are totally sold out for Jesus their lives can really count for change in this troubled world. For the individual, the church, the world, it is either His Lordship or anarchy. As British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge once said in an interview with William F. Buckley: “As an old man, looking back on one’s life, it’s one of the things that strikes you most forcibly—that the only thing that’s taught one anything is suffering. Not success, not happiness, not anything like that. The only thing that really teaches one what life’s about … is suffering.” Now how do you communicate that truth to highschoolers?

6:11 PM I had a wonderful interview last night with Jeff Downs. I want to thank him and his listeners for making an hour go by so enjoyably. It was a blast, especially since Jeff wanted to talk about the Greek text so much. A big shout-out to callers Dustin, Patrick, and Arthur for their insightful questions about the deity of Christ. You made my day.

6:08 PM Nice serendipity: Wayne Lehman comments favorably on the International Standard Version New Testament. Thank you, Wayne. I can tell you in the 29 years I’ve been teaching and writing by far the most challenging (and rewarding) thing I’ve ever done was producing the base translation for the ISV NT. I share Wayne’s hope that one day the Old Testament will be completed and the entire Bible issued for publication.

Tuesday, May 16

6:12 AM Today Brad and Betty Lapsley begin the trip of a lifetime. They leave Dallas for Raleigh, where they will be greeted by their daughter Becky Lynn. They will have supper with their son Ben and his family in Cary and then overnight at Bradford Hall in a state in which Lapsleys sojourned prior to the Revolutionary War. Wednesday is packing day, and Thursday they will board an airliner (rather than a steamship as they did in 1954) and leave for Ethiopia on a wing and a prayer. Wish them well!

Monday, May 15

11:44 AM Good news from the International Bible Society in Addis. They have reserved 250 Bibles for Becky to take to Alaba for the Bible Memory Program we started there last winter. We had asked for 500 but the Bibles are currently being reprinted. We're happy for what we can get. I've never seen such rejoicing as when people received their very own Bible.

11:31 AM Just back from the bank and Post Office and am getting ready for my interview with Jeff Downs tomorrow night. If you tune in, plan to have your Greek New Testament handy. I anticipate we'll spend a lot of time talking about the text of John 1:1, 20:28, Tit. 2:13, etc.

This was a great weekend in every respect. We had an enjoyable Mother's Day dinner at a local restaurant, then worked on Ethiopia-related tasks. Did you know that four of our sons will be graduating from college/seminary this month? Becky wrote a "mother's message" for them that she will read during the family dinner this Saturday night in Addis. It's so good I may post it here if Becky gives me permission. Already I'm beginning to get invitations to dinner while she's gone, though knowing her she'll have plenty of MVMs (microwavable meals) ready to go for me. This is a great time of the year to travel to Ethiopia. The weather is a constant 75 degrees night and day, and the fierce summer rains haven't started yet. Mom and Dad arrive from Dallas tomorrow and will spend Wednesday here at the farm resting before their great adventure begins on Thursday. It's been 47 years since they were missionaries to Ethiopia. As I think back to their ministry, I'm reminded of what Augustine said about a minister's job (ca. A.D. 400):

Disturbers are to be rebuked, the low-spirited to be encouraged, the infirm to be supported, objectors confuted, the treacherous guarded against, the unskilled taught, the lazy aroused, the contentious restrained, the haughty repressed, litigants pacified, the poor relieved, the oppressed liberated, the good approved, the evil borne with, and all are to be loved.

Me? I get to stay home, teach Greek, and work the farm, though you can be sure I'll be with them in spirit and prayer.  

Sunday, May 14

7:50 AM Yesterday afternoon our project was building a shed extension to one of our barns. The cedar posts, pine rafters, roofing materials, etc. cost us nothing. They either came from our property or were scavenged.

The shed will give us more room for storage.

7:45 AM We're slowly catching up on emails. Our service was restored last night.

Saturday, May 13

8:18 AM Our email is currently down.

7:54 AM News and notes. Liz Rondeau (and boys) surprised Becky Lynn yesterday with a heart-shaped birthday cake and assorted cupcakes.

We also cut hay for the first time this year. We'll need several days of dry weather before baling. The forecast is calling for rain on Mother's Day.

Last night Bethel Hill Baptist Church hosted us for "Friday Night at the Movies." We showed video clips of Ethiopia, ate pizza and popcorn, and prayed together. We left uplifted in spirit and amazed at the grace and love of this congregation toward God's people in Africa. One dear saint sent us home with two boxes of glasses and glass cases.

Meanwhile Becky and I are trying to tie up loose ends before she takes off on Thursday. She's an excellent organizer. On my list of things to do today:

1) Catch up on laundry.

2) Miracle Grow spray on vegetables, then spread bug granules along plants.

3) Write Bible labels.

4) Find, print out information about seeds we're taking to Burji Bible School.

5) Go to Post Office.

Friday, May 12

8:45 AM Deadly explosions continue to rock the Ethiopian capital. Again: chin up, knees down.

7:59 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Watch That "I"!

7:55 AM A young pastor sent along this email:

Dr. Black: Currently, I'm reading your book on Using New Testament Greek in the Ministry. It is a really great book. I also have your book It's Still Greek to Me. I am a young Baptist preacher (24 years old) who is striving to not to lose the knowledge and skills I gained from my four semesters of Greek that I took in Bible college. Currently, I serve as a Children's Pastor in a local church and I just don't have the time to futher any degrees in this area of study (of course, if the Lord would allow, I would love to do so). I absolutely love the language and I'm striving to excell in it, b/c I believe the Lord has given me an ability for it. I have several good books and grammars like A.T. Robertson's-huge grammar and his Short Grammer and his book on A Minister and His Greek NT. I have Mounce's grammar and Wallace's Grammar. In addition, I have several other good sources. However, I was wondering what advice you could give me to help me to keep moving forward in this area of study. I want to learn more about the language b/c I believe that it will enable me to better preach and teach God's Word to others. I know that you are quite busy but any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your help.

Here was my response:

Dear M.: Thank you so very much for your letter. I know exactly how you feel. I was in your shoes at your age, wondering how in the world can I keep up with my Greek in the midst of so many other pressing responsibilities. Now, 29 years later, I am convinced there are three things you must do, and do regularly and consistently: read, read, and then read some more. I make it a habit to read my Greek New Testament each and every day. I do the same with other languages that are important to me (German, French, Latin, Hebrew, etc.). I have found this is the only way to keep up one’s language skills. Of course, vocabulary is the key that unlocks the door to effective and rapid reading. Have you considered using Metzger’s Lexical Aids or some other book that will help you acquire a good reading vocabulary of New Testament Greek? But still, the very best way to learn vocabulary is by reading Greek in context. Study an entire book at a time. I think Philippians or 1 Thessalonians would work well. Both are short books with fairly easy grammar. Use an interlinear if you have to. There’s no shame in that. Read at least one paragraph each day, and combine this with your personal Bible time. If you will take the time to simply read your New Testament in the original, you will make enormous strides towards fluency in the language. I’m glad you have acquired several good grammars and other helps. But nothing can replace the text itself. And, since the biblical text is inspired, the Holy Spirit can use it to mold you into the image of the Lord Jesus, which is the goal of all our studies. At any rate, I commend you to the grace of God. Jesus is a Good Shepherd, and He is there to gently nudge you along from where you are to where you ought to be. Enjoy your Greek, and if I can help in any way please don’t hesitate to write me again. God’s blessings on you, Dave Black

7:43 AM Our son Samuel sent us a nice email from Ethiopia this morning. I thought you'd enjoy this snippet:

A nice and comfortable land cruiser is prepared with a national driver from Bole to Bole. Also the old missionaries house is reserved for you. By the way Mama B, in the states is there a thermos which keeps Ethiopian Makiato warm for about 36 hours? If so please bring it to Ethiopia and I will send very testy and delicious makiato for Papa B when you go back to Virginia.... All of your friends and people are waiting eagerly for you. My ear is carefully listening when your plane land at Bole Airport and I am praying for your safe Journey.

The "Makiato" he mentions is the most delicious coffee drink I have ever tasted. The Italians introduced it to the country in the late 1930s.

7:32 AM A very Happy Birthday to the most wonderful woman in the world.

7:30 AM Dan Edelen has published several posts expressing his concerns about homeschooling. Edelen is more pessimistic than I am about the prospects of a genuine and positive homeschooling movement, but his essays are thoughtful, informative, and nicely hard-edged. I recommend that you read them, even if you are committed, as I am, to home education.

Thursday, May 11

6:39 AM A family in Texas sent along these eyeglasses, eyeglass cases, and beautiful bookmarks for the Ethiopians. Becky will take them with her when she leaves for Addis one week from today. Our thanks to all who have partnered with us.

6:34 AM Someone asked me recently why we moved to Virginia from North Carolina. The answer is that the ranch we lived on in Carolina was about to be swallowed up by Raleigh. The city is growing at a rapid pace, and the urban sprawl we bemoaned in Southern California is repeating itself here. Our ranch was located in what demographers call the "exurbs" -- fast-growing places that are farther removed from the bedroom communities. They are the new frontiers between the suburbs and the countryside. Our desire was to move to the "real" country and to fulfill the lifetime dream of my wife to have a place where people could come apart and rest, meet with the Lord Jesus, and leave refreshed. Our retreat home has been receiving guests for over a year and a half now, and I think we're beginning to realize something of a "L'Abri" ministry. Building one's own home and outbuildings and fencing in one's own fields has been anything but easy. But we feel at home. This is where God wants us. Becky and I see ourselves as stewards of our farm; Christ is its Owner. His death and resurrection challenge our right to live our own lives. The hymn says it well: Love so amazing, so divine, demands our souls, our lives, our all.

Wednesday, May 10

6:40 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Every Member an Evangelist.

6:34 AM The same One who said, with tender winsomeness, "Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden," also said, with solemn authority, "If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me." Jesus perfectly combined grace and power, sweetness and strength. Do you? Do I? Those who share the nature of Jesus ought to.

Tuesday, May 9

6:11 AM Kudos and best wishes to James Tauber who just started teaching a Greek class to his small group.

6:07 AM Recently I overheard Becky explaining to a friend how our neighbor's farm works. "They raise cattle," she said, "and then they trailer the cattle many miles away to the market in order to sell them. Then they take the money they earn from the sales and go to the grocery store to buy their meat." She added that we have simply decided to cut out the middle men. I couldn't have said it any better.

6:00 AM We've only got one more lesson to cover in our beginning Greek class and then the real lessons begin -- lessons yet to be gleaned from a lifetime of using New Testament Greek in order to get to know its Great Author and Subject better. This semester completes my 29th year of teaching Greek. These have been happy, exciting years. I began teaching in 1976 as a part-time instructor at Biola University in California, where I had studied under the textual scholar Harry Sturz. Dr. Sturz asked me to teach several sections of beginning (classical) Greek while I was also taking courses at Talbot School of Theology. I often think to myself, What would have happened had Dr. Sturz not believed in me and granted me the opportunity that eventually led to a career in teaching Greek? And every semester I look out over my classes and wonder, How many of these students will themselves become professors of New Testament and Greek in the years ahead? I'm reminded of the story about the great A.T. Robertson when he was just cutting his eye teeth as a Greek professor:

In 1888, before Dr. Broadus died (1895), he appointed Robertson assistant professor in Greek and homiletics. One fellow classmate recalls the immediate affect A.T. had on the seminary:

I can never forget the day Dr. Broadus discovered young Robertson. This Wake Forest student showed such a grasp of Greek that the great teacher’s thrill and satisfaction were manifest to all. Thereafter, in questioning the class, he would close the discussion with, ‘and now what does Brother Robertson think about it?’ Really, his discovery of Robertson was like one discovering a diamond [mine].

This semester I have no doubt that there are several diamonds in my classes. I already know of three students who are planning on pursuing Ph.D.s in New Testament in the near future. And so the good work goes on, from generation to generation, until the Lord Jesus returns. One more thought. Each day when I read my Greek New Testament I discover something there that I had never seen before, no matter how "familiar" the passage may be. Even after three decades of teaching this language I still feel like a child wading on the shore of a limitless ocean. My current study in the Greek text of Ephesians is a time of rich fellowship with the Lord Jesus. I never dreamed that my love for His Book would grow stronger year after year. 

Monday, May 8

9:55 AM A big Monday shout-out to our friends at Clarksville Baptist Church who generously donated enough money to buy 86 Bibles for their fellow believers in Alaba, Ethiopia yesterday. O how we love the Muslims of Alaba -- this great mass of humanity, neglected and sinful, the very kind of humanity the Savior came to save, with all its mistakes and narrowness, its wretchedness and loss of hope, above all its unqualified bitterness toward the church. That our local Baptist churches should care for this world of sinful, lost, diseased, depraved humanity is an untold blessing for me. May our love for the lost increase and the kingdom expand!

Thank you, CBC!

7:45 AM The latest addition to our homepage is called Graduate, Be Like Jesus!

7:40 AM Lauralee and Ray Lindholm are precious friends of ours from Texas who share our love for Ethiopia and Ethiopians. They make several trips a year there and this time took along a group of men from their congregation to help with a building project. The men worked on a two story building attached to a local meeting place that will serve as an office and a kitchen. It includes eleven small stalls along the back for toilets and a shower. 

The flow of blessings from the throne of grace is never-ending. Thank you, Lauralee and Ray, for your love for the Lord Jesus and your service in His wonderful name.

7:34 AM The Barnes Boys Blog discusses the translation of the Greek verb tasso in Acts 13:48 -- a key text for the doctrine of salvation.

Sunday, May 7

7:05 AM This morning we received this photo from Biruk, one of our Ethiopian sons. He will be graduating with his B.A. in Bible and Theology from Addis Ababa Bible College on Saturday, May 27. Becky and Nathan will be attending this wonderful event. How we thank God for what He is doing in your life, Biruk!

Saturday, May 6

8:12 AM Calling all students between the ages of 12 and 18 (inclusive)! The young person who best completes the following assignment will receive a gratis copy of my beginning grammar, Learn to Read New Testament Greek, along with a free workbook and pronunciation CD. Here's your assignment:

In Eph. 2:19-22 (which I am currently studying in my private Bible time), Paul uses six Greek words that all contain the root oik, which refers to a "household" or "building." Following are the words and the way they are rendered in the NASB (the oik part of the word is in red):

1) paroikoi ("strangers") v. 19

2) oikeioi ("household") v. 19

3) epoikodomethentes ("having been built upon") v. 20

4) oikodome ("building") v. 21

5) sunoikodomeisthe ("you...are being built together") v. 22

6) katoiketerion ("dwelling") v. 22

You can see how the English misses the Greek play on words. Your assignment? See if you can come up with an English translation of these verses that retains this word play. (For example, you might want to render the first word something like "away from the household.") You are free to consult other English translations, Bible dictionaries, commentaries, etc. Moms and dads can also lend a helping hand.

Want to try it? If so, email me your complete English translation of Eph. 2:19-22 by midnight, Saturday, May 13. I will announce the winner on Monday, May 15. Enjoy digging into God's Word!

7:42 AM News and notes:

1) We are looking forward to being back at Clarksville Baptist Church tomorrow. The meeting starts at 11:00, but our neighbors are cooking breakfast for everyone at 8:30 in the fellowship hall and we can't pass that up. I hope southern pork sausage will be on the menu. It's what we'll be eating in heaven.

2) The weather has turned sunny again so I think we'll be building a new barn shed today to increase our hay storage space. It looks like we may also be cutting this week. It all depends on the weather, and the weather all depends on the Lord. Farming sure is a "dependent" lifestyle, isn't it?

3) Just for the fun of it we watched a bit of The Longest Day last night. It must have been one of the first war movies to have the Germans and the French actually speaking their languages. I noticed, though, how the subtitles were often questionable if not downright incorrect. Some statements were even left untranslated, and sometimes these statements were important for understanding the plot line. Still, this was better than the "zer ist no escaping fwom zis camp" found in so many other black and white war movies. My favorite scene is when the Brits take Pegasus Bridge over the Orne Canal. I felt like I was sitting in one of those crashing gliders.

7:24 AM Christian apologist Luis Reyes has published an essay on the much-debated expression "firstborn of all creation." A key quote:

A critical linguistic variable is overlooked in the argument: To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever presented a shred of linguistic evidence to support the notion that the isolated linguistic component prototokos is intrinsically a so-called partitive word (possessing an intrinsic partitive semantic value on its own), and certainly, no linguistic evidence has been demonstrated for the notion that prototokos “lexically requires that the firstborn be a part of a group.” It would seem that such an interpretation might be derived from the extra-linguistic context or from pragmatic implicature (although I even dispute that), but where is the linguistic evidence to substantiate such a claim of an intrinsic semantic partitive value inherent in the linguistic component prototokos?

You can read the entire essay here. Mr. Reyes also has an excellent website in Spanish devoted to apologetics.

7:20 AM What do former Congressman Davy Crockett and current Congressman Ron Paul have in common? Chip Bayer knows.

7:13 AM If you've ever translated the Bible, you might want to read this.

Friday, May 5

9:56 AM Jeff Downs tells me he has rescheduled our interview for Tuesday, May 16, at 8:00 pm. Thanks, Jeff. Looking forward to it.

9:47 AM Wonderful news! Our son David just sent us word from Alaba that many people are memorizing the 9 passages of Scripture and will therefore be receiving a gift Bible when Becky returns there in two weeks.

The other good news is, the work of memory verses is going amazingly. Now all 200 bibles are taken. Still many people are memorizing and waiting bibles. Also in Dada church almost 200 people finished the work. Isn't it wonderful My Mamiye? I think we need many Bibles.

I cannot tell you what a blessing this is for Becky and me. The Dada congregation is now 300 strong in a strongly Muslim area and there is nothing these new believers need more than the Scriptures in their own language. We have promised them two things. If two-thirds of their congregation will memorize these passages, we will give each person a Bible AND we will pay for the completion of their meeting hall. It looks like the Spirit of God is moving in such a way as to make this happen. Praise the Lord together!

Update: For the history of the Dada church (also spelled Deda), please go here. It is an amazing story of the love and grace of God. 

8:29 AM Look who's visiting Rosewood Farm. Meet Miss Dixie everyone. 

7:55 AM Quick note. Our interview with Jeff Downs last night had to be postponed due to technical difficulties. Our topic was to be the deity of Christ and we were planning on taking listener calls, but for some reason we couldn't get all the phone lines connected. When the interview is rescheduled, I'll let you know in case you're interested in listening or calling in. Jeff tells me he usually gets lots of calls from Jehovah's Witnesses, and I would enjoy interacting with them on such passages as John 1:1.

7:23 AM I'm happy to report that we were able to arrange for Bereket to have his next eye exam in Addis Ababa during the time Becky and Nathan will be there. He'll be flying from Gonder to Addis about the same time his American family is flying to Ethiopia. On our last trip to Ethiopia we met two blind boys in Burji. We had them brought to the capital to meet with an eye specialist, but unfortunately nothing can be done for them medically. So, since Bereket now has partial sight, he will be bringing the cassette Bible and tape recorder we gave him and he will pass them on to two Burji boys. And so the work of the Lord expands. Isn't He good?

6:51 AM This note from China today warmed my heart:

Thank you so much for serving the church through your blog and other
ministries outside SEBTS. You continue to influence me.

It's a reminder to me of how the internet allows believers worldwide to be connected in the work of the Lord. My thanks to all who take the time to write. You are a great blessing and encouragement to me.

6:34 AM In our Greek Reading course we are currently plowing through the second century writing known as the Didache, also called The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. I just noticed that Rick Brannan has been blogging about this work. Check out his essays if you can. I think they're well worth your time.

6:25 AM Eric Weiss has a very helpful discussion of Bible translations, including the influence that translator's theology has on the rendering of the original languages. Here’s an example that is dear to my own heart:

This most popular of all English translations was commissioned by James I of England, who wanted a Bible that would be used by all the people. The Puritans were using the GENEVA BIBLE, but its anti-Catholic notes and its usage of words like "congregation" and "washing" instead of "church" and "baptism" offended the bishops of the Anglican Church (Church of England). The bishops reacted by producing their own BISHOPS' BIBLE, though it was recognized even by the bishops themselves to be inferior to the GENEVA BIBLE as a translation.

In order to end this division, James commissioned a group of scholars from both parties to make a Bible translation that would appeal to both Puritans and Anglicans. This effort was eventually to become a great success, as witnessed by the still-current popularity of the KING JAMES VERSION. However, some of the rules the translators were guided by inevitably compromised the integrity of their translation.

One such rule was that the BISHOPS' BIBLE was to be followed and not altered unless the original warranted it. (Fortunately, though, the translation was frequently corrected along the lines of the GENEVA BIBLE and other versions.) A second such rule was that ecclesiastical (church) terms used in the BISHOPS' BIBLE were to be retained. This meant that ekklèsia was still to be translated as "church," even though its truer meaning was "congregation" (i.e., a group of people, rather than a building), and baptizo was still to be transliterated as "baptize" instead of being translated as "wash" or "immerse," which is what the Greek word really meant. Since the Anglican Church baptized by sprinkling, to translate baptizo correctly as "immerse" would have set the Scriptures against church practice.

To read the entire essay, click here. Eric’s site contains many other essays of interest, including this one suggesting some steps for people recovering from abusive church relationships.

6:18 AM Brandon from Seattle called me yesterday to say he was just starting his Greek studies from my beginning grammar, Learn to Read New Testament Greek. Here's a quick reminder: the Crosswire Bible Society has produced flash cards of our book's vocabulary (see sample below). Meanwhile, I am sending Brandon a workbook and a pronunciation CD. Best to you, Brandon, on your studies.

Thursday, May 4

6:09 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Why Not Ecclesiology?  

6:06 AM The controversy swirling around the Constitution Party (CP) reminds me of the old saying about people who “have an edge on them.” Today there are many subtle influences that can dull the edge of Christian testimony. Compromise, casuistry, carelessness – all these and more must be constantly combated. The debate over abortion makes a good grindstone. But note: You can sharpen or dull an axe on a grindstone depending upon how you hold the axe. The same grindstone that makes some Christians dull until they no longer cut wood for God makes others all the sharper. Has the CP lost its cutting edge? Many are saying yes. If so, let us take a lesson from the apostle Paul. He did not dull his sword by compromising with Caesar. He did not rationalize away his convictions. He kept his message distinctive to the end. He urged Timothy to stiffen his moral backbone. He told him to endure hardship as a good soldier, not negotiate as a clever diplomat. I was drawn to the CP, like so many others, because of its uncompromising position on life. (I repeat: uncompromising position.) Now it looks like the CP, like other man-made organizations, is about to implode. Is it too late to reverse course? I pray it is not. The problem in the CP is not ideological. It is anatomical. We lack a backbone. We are long overdue for a spinal transplant.

6:00 AM The Brits find the Banzai Pipeline too hot to handle. You couldn't pay me to surf that beach today. But at the ripe old age of 16, it was no big deal. There was no cleaner, more hollow break in the Islands than Pipeline.

5:56 AM In a variation on my own observations on big government, Ron Paul has some advice about U.S. foreign aid: scrap it. This is good mind-food indeed. Individual Americans have always been generous and, besides, the Constitution says nothing about using taxpayers’ money to help prop up puppet governments in foreign lands.

5:52 AM Gary Long (not the author of the book I just recommended) is on a quest to burn half of his 360 pounds by walking 2,900 miles across America. For an update, go here. I give him two thumbs up. I know of only one activity that beats walking, and that’s weight lifting. Even mild lifting will raise your metabolism considerably and keep those pounds off. At least it’s worked for me. At any rate, all the best to you, Gary.

5:47 AM Hendrickson Publishers just sent me a complimentary copy of Gary Long’s new book, Grammatical Concepts 101 for Biblical Greek. Here's a blurb I wrote for the editors:

Gary Long has written a book on a topic that most people would prefer to avoid. We all know that grammar is "good for us," but we cringe at the prospect at having to relearn everything we learned (or were supposed to learn) in grade school. Add to that the study of a second language – and one as challenging as New Testament Greek – and you have a recipe for disaster. Enter Grammatical Concepts 101 for Biblical Greek. I rate this book as four stars (out of five) because it almost achieves the impossible – it makes grammar as painless as possible. I will definitely recommend it as a reference tool to my Greek students. If anyone wants a concise, easy-to-understand definition of any given part of speech (both in Greek and English), it’s all here!

Grammatical Concepts 101 for Biblical Greek: Learning Biblical Greek Grammatical Concepts Through English Grammar

5:42 AM Beware 666?

5:40 AM The bizzaro Gospel of Judas.

5:37 AM Did you know?

More children are born each year in Africa than are born in the Americas, all of Europe and Japan put together. Worldwide, more than a third of a million new people will be born on your birthday this year.

See the graphic.

Tuesday, May 2

6:33 AM If you've seen the movie Gods and Generals, you'll remember the scene in which Union soldiers from General Oliver Howard's 11th Corps were casually cooking their supper and playing cards when hundreds of animals charged from the woods. Behind them were General Stonewall Jackson's troops. The Federal flank crumbled as Howard's men were driven back two miles before stopping the Confederate advance. This happened on May 2, 1863, in what is surely the most amazing victory of the Army of Northern Virginia.

6:25 AM Over at the Assembling of the Church website, Alan Knox addresses the issue of the "hiring" and "firing" of pastors. One little snippet:

...Scripture indicates that pastors ARE members of the body. And, pastors should be recognized from AMONG the body, not from OUTSIDE the body. There is not one instance in Scripture of a PASTOR/ELDER coming from outside the body. (Yes, I know that many times Timothy and Titus are considered elders, but Scripture does NOT call them elders. As a matter of fact, they were to appoint elders for the churches, not be elders themselves.)

Perhaps, when churches are seeking pastors/elders, they should seek those men among their own body instead of hiring others from outside.

6:20 AM A bit of farm news. Our female Sheltie has been in heat again and we think that this time she's gotten pregnant. If so, I can't wait to see Sheba and Shiloh's puppies.

6:18 AM I've been reading a history of the Hawaiian Islands in my spare time. It's called Shoal of Time. It dawned on me the other day that it was written by my history professor at the University of Hawaii when I was a summer school student there in 1971. His book is every bit as engaging as his teaching style was. His classroom attire was also notable but typical of the university -- aloha shirt, shorts, and slippers. Of course, we students were dressed much more formally -- tank tops, swimming shorts, and (often) bare feet. Those were the days.

6:15 AM More good news! I just sent 54 video tapes to an editor in Dallas who will take the Greek course I taught in Ethiopia last summer and turn it into DVDs. Then I will make the course available to anyone who wants or needs it, home scholars included. If you knew how difficult it was for us to find someone with enough expertise to do this, you'll understand why we're so pleased and thankful.

6:12 AM Good news! Becky Lynn has just finished writing up her itinerary for the trip. I'll post it next week to give everyone time to digest it before their departure. Becky and company leave for Ethiopia in 17 days. 

Monday, May 1

7:39 AM Although it isn't an official holiday in Hawaii, May 1 ("Lei Day") is one of the most festive days of the year. We all wore plumerias in our ears -- kanes and wahines alike. And who can ever forget the outlandish Aloha shirts? My favorite lei was the one made out of li-hing mui (Chinese cracked seeds). You could eat it after you had worn it.

7:32 AM Our son sang "The Ninety and Nine" last night at our singspiration. It was awesome. As he sang I could see Ira Sankey singing the same great piece during Moody's crusades. When Nathan got to this verse:

And all through the mountains, thunder riven
And up from the rocky steep,
There arose a glad cry to the gate of Heaven,
“Rejoice! I have found My sheep!”
And the angels echoed around the throne,
“Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own!
Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own!”

I was moved to shouting, and I wasn't the only one. There was a very strong sense of God's Spirit stirring the hearts of His people last night. Thank you, son, for blessing us with such a powerful reminder of Jesus' great love for the lost.

7:25 AM Will Congress make the same mistake with Iran as they did with Iraq by ignoring the Constitution again? Or will they continue to suffer from ADD?

America is becoming an attention deficit democracy. The government is still nominally democratic — elections are boisterous events accompanied by torrents of dubious ads and mass rallies. But after the election, the president returns to his pedestal, congressmen return to their free lunches, and most people ignore political life.

Because so many people are so ignorant, it becomes easier each decade for politicians to seize new power and decimate established rights. But the fact that most people are politically negligent does not entitle government to trample their rights.

7:20 AM Right now I am praying for the countries of Europe. Here are the top 25 atheistic, agnostic countries in the world:

1 Sweden
2 Vietnam
3 Denmark
4 Norway
5 Japan
6 Czech Republic
7 Finland
8 France
9 South Korea
10 Estonia
11 Germany
12 Russia
13 Hungary
14 Netherlands
15 Britain
16 Belgium
17 Bulgaria
18 Slovenia
19 Israel
20 Canada
21 Latvia
22 Slovakia
23 Switzerland
24 Austria
25 Australia

European countries are noted in orange. Why, then, do so many think that Europe is not a mission field? To take but one example, about half of those in France do not believe in God. Europe is the Dark Continent. I pray that God will pour out a great evangelistic power to reach Europeans with the Good News.

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