November 2008 Blog Archive
Saturday, November 22
8:04 AM Greetings blogging friends! This will be my last entry of 2008. Becky and I are scheduled to return from Ethiopia on Dec. 31, just in time to usher in the New Year. Will I miss the blogging community? Are there cows in Texas? But for everything there is a time: a time to blog, and a time to refrain from blogging -- which is a very good thing, too, else we would become too fond of the art. I leave you with my love, my prayers, and an ode from my favorite Scottish poet, George MacDonald (1824-1905):
Friday, November 21
1:40 PM Becky is now packing us. We're missing one of our large suitcases so it's off to South Boston. Meantime, here's three from Bonhoeffer. I found them on p. 209 of Donald Durbaugh's The Believers' Church, which I am taking with me to read on the plane.
1) Christianity without the living Christ is inevitably Christianity without discipleship, and Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ."
2) "Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate."
3) "Faith is only real when there is obedience, never without it, and faith only becomes faith in the act of obedience."
7:31 AM Over at LRC is a post I just have to link to: The Libertarian Statesman. It's about Ron Paul's ideologically coherent views on government -- and it's very readable too (the interview style is quite engaging). Check it out if you have the time. It's worth reading just for his judicious comments about our president elect.
6:49 AM Greek Geeks take note:
1) Rod Decker talks about the complex semotaxis of Mark's Gospel.
2) The debate over verbal aspect continues.
3) It's all Greek to -- YOU!
6:41 AM Notes in the margin. It's the morning before, and I woke up feeling lousy. Nothing serious, just tiredness and the makings (I hope not) of a head cold. My key word this morning is "enough": I know that the Lord will give me "enough" rest, "enough" health, enough" strength, "enough" sleep at night to do what I have to do these next few weeks. Instead of "enough" Paul used the word "sufficient" in 2 Cor., which is close "enough."
Right now I'm reviewing my lessons on Philippians for our Gondar evangelists. Talk about practical applications.
1) For starters: The church at Philippi began in the place of prayer. That was due to Lydia, you will recall. Our team dares to do nothing without intensive prayer. We will pray, as a team, twice daily (as often as we eat). And, as you know, we have printed a prayer itinerary for you all to use. Why? "We have this treasure in earthen jars of clay so that the surpassing greatness of the power might be of God and not of us."
2) Then, too, have you noticed that women played a very prominent role in Philippi? This included Lydia as well as Euodia and Syntyche. Half our team are females, including an 81-year old saint. Truth is: we could not do this work without the ladies, and this includes one special lady who is phenomenally gifted in organization.
3) The ladies in Philippi, unfortunately, began quarreling. It was such a grave danger to the Gospel that Paul had to confront them -- by name! -- in 4:2. We leave for Ethiopia aware of the dangers that face us externally but the even graver danger of internal strife. Disunity is a sin that threatens the heart of the church. It destroys the church's witness and effectiveness. It was abhorrent to Jesus, who prayed that we "may be one." I think it helps to recognize that this is a constant danger and to pray accordingly.
4) Paul addresses both the saints and those who oversee and serve (these are not titles) in 1:1. These latter folk are not "over" the others but "along side" them. Every member of our team is a priest, a minister, a servant. Yet there are leaders. In fact, three pastors are going with us. Bottom line: on our team we have some excellent leaders and some excellent followers but we are all slaves of Jesus.
5) O, and how about the theme of "joy"? Paul is joyful! The Philippians are joyful! I'd say our team is very joyful! You know why so many Christians are unhappy? Because they fail to acquire what they think is essential to their happiness. (I know this from many years of experience.) The key to joyful Christian living is acquiring what will bring true, lasting joy. For Paul, that was partnering in the Gospel (1:5) -- becoming a Great Commission Christian. So, Paul can be in prison and still rejoice because the Gospel is being proclaimed. Now, I admit I haven't always had that kind of joy but I do now, and I want to taste more!
6) See also 1:6. This is the work of God! Yes, we will preach "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." But the work of the Gospel is the work of God from beginning to end. To return to Lydia for a moment, here's a wonderful verse that says it all: "The Lord opened her heart to listen to what was said by Paul" (Acts 16:14). I am praying for the Lord to open many hearts on this trip. That's His job, not mine.
7) Finally, Paul prays that the Philippians might "choose what is best" (1:9-10). Christianity gives us a new priority system. A new value system. What's best? Not my health. Not my comfort. But the Gospel! As Paul says in 3:4-11, everything the world values turns out to be unspeakable filth in comparison to Jesus.
Well, you didn't need this little sermon, but I did. I leave for Utopia (my father-in-law's term for Ethiopia) a bit bedraggled in body but convinced that God's grace is sufficient ("enough") and that my calling in life is not to be just a Greek teacher (or even a just Greek teacher) but to be a Christian.
"Join me in suffering for the sake of the Good News, with God's power," wrote Paul in 2 Tim. 1:8. Okay Paul, I'll give it another whack.
Thursday, November 20
1:29 PM Here's a plug for William Mounce's Greek for the Rest of Us. I quite agree that it is an excellent resource. Caleb is learning the Greek alphabet with the help of a grammar written just for children. And even if you've had a year or two of Greek, you could probably use a refresher. So whether it's Mounce or some other tool, use it or lose it -- and don't worry about using "cheats" like an analytical lexicon or an interlinear either, no matter what the purists tell you. As one preacher put it, "Halitosis is better than no breath at all."
1:24 PM From the BBC comes this report about Luther's lavatory habits. Whenever a news story begins with hyperbole such as "Archaeologists in Germany say they may have found a lavatory where Martin Luther launched the Reformation of the Christian church in the 16th Century" you know you're in trouble.
1:18 PM This is speculation, but William Pfaff says we ought to be bracing for a major disappointment in the Obama era. With all this talk of Clintonian retreads, I am reminded of the old adage: The more things change, the more they stay the same.
12:44 PM It's a gorgeous day for visitors, and no visitors are more welcome at Rosewood Farm than Liz and her boys.
12:38 PM Thanks for the "Amen" brother Rick!
9:36 AM In exactly 48 hours our Burji team will be heading to RDU to kick off the trip of a lifetime. If you'd like to follow our daily schedule, Becky has just published a guide: Ethiopia Prayer Itinerary, Nov-Dec, 2008. Please feel free to copy and distribute it, link to it, or even publish it on your own website as the Lord leads. Although we have the assurance that we are engaged in His work and not our own, we still depend upon the prayers of His people!
8:27 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Are You Going to Ethiopia Again?
6:55 AM At the Better Bibles Blog, David Frank chimes in on the translation debate with his essay What is a translation, and how might it be bad? I have no comment to make, except to suggest that this picture I took in a high school in Burji last summer might provide a good case study.
5:42 AM I woke up at 5:30 this morning with this thought. What does the kingdom look like? It looks just like Jesus. It doesn't look like you, or me, or anyone else. But the more you and I begin to look like Jesus, the more we begin to look like the kingdom. Our priorities become kingdom priorities. Secondary matters don't matter so much to us any more. O, we still have our convictions about home schooling and elder-led congregationalism, etc. But we don't fuss and fight over them. We take Paul literally: "Let each man be convinced in his own mind." These have become matters of personal conviction to us. Now, this is no excuse for sloppy thinking. Paul's word means "be fully convinced." But we can give grace to those with whom we disagree. Grey matters are now grace matters to us. What matters is the kingdom, the scandalous way of Jesus, the Savior who loves losers like us. We pledge allegiance to the cross. We fly the banner of love. And we are -- if you can believe this! -- even willing to make genuine sacrifices for the sake of this kingdom, a kingdom that transcends culture, tribe, and even nationality (this means no more bumper stickers that say "jesUSAves"). Can I get an Amen?
Wednesday, November 19
8:59 PM It's almost bedtime here on the farm. Becky has been working tirelessly on travel logistics in-country for our Burji team and I believe it is all worked out (on paper, that is). I also see that Lionel has posted about the trip on his website (thank you, bro!), and I will have the itinerary up and running tomorrow Lord willing. Things are getting "excitinger and excitinger" as each day goes by.
10:05 AM Here's a nice serendipity. One of our favorite organists will be giving a concert on December 7 at First Baptist Church Creedmoor, NC. Organ performance doesn't get any better than this. We first heard Carlo Curley in Roxboro a few years ago. As splendid as the music is, the musician is even more delightful. His arrangement of Londonderry Air is spine-tingling. Becky and I won't be able to attend, but if you can you won't regret it.
9:39 AM I just took the dogs for a long walk down to Nate and Jessie's farm. The morning air is crisp and cold, and the puppies are acting accordingly: frisky and excitable. I remember my horses being the same way. I suppose that is why I always loved riding in the fall and early winter. I could canter Traveler for an hour on farm paths and through fields and over creeks, and at the end I would be exhausted but he'd still be raring to go. Now, let's see if I can apply that personally. I have a tendency to be like Peter. My progress in the Christian life is often disappointingly irregular. "Peter" of course is not only a noun meaning "Rock." It is also a verb. Peter disappointed His Lord so often that we say he "petered" out. Failure was only half his problem. The other half was groveling in self-pity. I can identify. Especially when I realize that even my best service for Christ is often stained and faulty. My only hope is in Jesus. Like Peter with the lame beggar in Acts 3, I "give what I have." I don't think it's very much. And often I think I give it with base motives. But the desire is there. I long to go all out, like my faithful horses did on those cold and crisp fall mornings.
7:21 AM I have two brief comments to make about my latest book, Perspectives on the Ending of Mark, copies of which arrived at Bradford Hall this week.
1) The lineup of contributors is truly outstanding, present company excluded. This is not false modesty. I did not intend to write an essay for this volume because I do not consider myself a text-critic. My contribution reflects two facts: my president requested that I write it, and I do have an opinion on the subject and am happy to express it in writing (for what it's worth). That said, I do hope you will read the book: it is worth it if only to get the fresh perspectives of men who are in fact acknowledged experts in the field: Dan Wallace, Keith Elliott, and my colleague Maurice Robinson. The response by Darrell Bock is also very ably presented.
2) I was taken aback a bit when I saw the list price of 20 USD. I've published books of comparable length and quality that sold for (and still sell for)10 dollars. The silver lining is that the book is probably discounted at this week's ETS/SBL meetings. You can check at the B & H booth.
6:53 AM Yesterday I was invited to speak in January at a Baptist Men's Conference being hosted by the Crewe Baptist Church here in southern Virginia. This is very exciting to me because CBC is the final resting place of 4-feet 3-inch Lottie Moon, former missionary to China. Why should I feel so honored? Read these two excerpts from her bio and you'll understand:
I praise God for Lottie's life and testimony. It sure is convicting. "Over-indulged and under-disciplined" describes me to a tee. At any rate, my topic at the conference will be "Doing Missions Jesus' Way." The date is January 26.
6:34 AM Isn't this a great definition of church?
So "church" is essentially a community of people who share life with each other. But what does that do for churches that call themselves "Such-and-Such Community Church." Isn’t that a bit redundant? What, then, should we call the place where believers meet? Assembly? Chapel? Gathering Place? The Carpenter's Shop? (This writer suggests "Versammlung" instead of "Gemeinde"). I wish I knew the answer.
6:29 AM Sadly, the Muslim-bashing continues. This is truly a counterproductive approach to the problem.
6:18 AM Hello bloggers. Yesterday I was on campus tying up loose ends before we board the plane on Saturday. I'm trying to recall when I had a busier day. No time to blog. One of my delightful tasks was to write references for one of my former students who is applying to Ph.D. programs in different institutions. As with many of my students, I had encouraged him to pursue post-graduate studies. I knew he was applying to more than one school but I didn't expect to write 13 references. In any case, that's done. I also managed to send along the last corrections to my grammar and its accompanying workbook. My efficient secretary also helped me set up web pages for each of my upcoming courses, which means that syllabi are now posted at the seminary website. The most enjoyable part of my day? Collecting books I've written to present as gifts to Prime Minister Meles when we meet him next Monday in Addis.
Look for the trip itinerary to be posted tomorrow. Meanwhile thanks for your prayers for our trip.
Monday, November 17
7:21 PM We're done! 400 pounds of lean, farm-fresh, hormone-free beef are now packed away snugly in our freezers. We've been working for 12 hours straight. Now it's off to Nate and Jessie's for a celebration feast.
P.S. The puppies are very happy with their new bones.
1:52 PM Break time here at the farm. We're actually a bit ahead of schedule. Becky and Jessie have a few more roasts and steaks to cut up, and then there's the hamburger to grind (my job). Right now Nate and I have to run down to Oxford to swap out manure trailers, then it's back to the beef. Tonight Jessie is cooking up some fresh venison and we'll be eating at her house (FYI: we don't eat beef on days like these:).
6:58 AM This is the sight that greeted me this morning at 6:30. It is a beautiful day, clear and cold. Perfect for today's project. May God bless you wherever you go and whatever you do this day.
Sunday, November 16
7:05 PM When we got home this evening I noticed that Nathan had moved the herd into the horse pasture next to Bradford Hall. Tomorrow night one of these fine fellows will be in our freezer. Yes, it's "processing" time at the farm again.
6:45 PM Jon Glass of Cavel Baptist Church sent out this email alert to the Beulah Baptist Association. It's a real classic. Jon, you're hired!
Isn't that a great invitation? This is my small effort to return biblical education to the local church. I'm looking forward to a great class.
6:22 PM How does one tell the story of Burji? Where does one begin? For me the story begins in 2004, when Becky and I visited the land of her youth, I for the first time. I was on sabbatical and had time for a lengthy stay in Ethiopia, which included stopovers in the capital Addis Ababa, Hosanna (Becky's first mission station), Dilla (where I taught at the small Bible school there), Langano (where Becky did clinic work), Burji/Gambo (Becky's second mission station), and finally Gondar in the far north of the country. This is what Burji looked like when I first saw it. The old mission station in the mountains had long since been closed, and here stood a new town called Soyama, the county seat of the Burji district.
I noticed that there was an immediate bonding that took place between my wife and the people of Burji, including these precious children. Becky would have been about this girl's age when she lived in these very same mountains.
Of course we just had to see the old mission station, so off we went on our borrowed donkeys for the half-day trek to Gambo. I remember the day being sunny and hot and that I got royally sunburned on my face. Afterwards I would joke, "Now I'm really an Ethiopian." ("Ethiopia" comes from a Greek word meaning "burnt-faced one.")
All along the way people asked, "Where are the faranjis (foreigners) going?" When they were told, "Gambo," they were incredulous. "Why would anybody want to visit a ghost town?" The elders with us would reply, "This faranji grew up there. She is Mr. Lapsley's daughter." And then everything began coming back to these people. The woman pictured here actually remembered playing with Becky when she was a girl.
I could only imagine the memories that must have flooded Becky's heart when we arrived in Gambo and she stood in front of the house her father had built with his own hands. Now abandoned, it will stand forever in my memory as a symbol of selfless service in the name of Christ.
Fast forward to 2008. We are returning to Ethiopia for the 8th time in 4 years. Today I asked Becky, "When was your first inkling that we might go back to Burji?" She replied, "On our second night when you plopped your head on the pillow and said to me, 'Honey, I love these people so much it hurts.'" I clearly recall our second visit to Soyama. We had promised to return, but frankly nobody believed us. They live so far away from Addis that few make any effort to visit them. Many others had promised to return, but did they? So when we actually did show up the believers were filled with unspeakable joy. "You did not forget us, you did not forget us," they kept repeating.
And we haven't forgotten them. This year's team of 12 includes Lynette, a nurse who can't wait to teach hygiene and health courses in the rural villages of Burji. She gave her testimony in church this morning. It was simply beautiful to hear how God has led her to take this huge step of faith and to be away from her family for the first time in her life.
Then the puppet team performed the salvation time line that the Burji children will be learning. It tells of the grace of God from the days of Adam and Eve when He promised He would send a Deliverer who would die and rise again for Abraham's children and for all mankind.
A lighter moment in the service occurred when Jason presented last year's team member Danny with this tee-shirt. Danny was our sports expert who taught, among other things, the children how to throw a frisbee. Unfortunately, he forget to tell them how to catch it, and I can still see that first toss and the poor "receiver" getting knocked on the forehead by this strange flying disk. We will miss Danny and the other former team members who will not be with us on this trip.
Jason brought a wonderful message from Acts 13 and then had the congregation commission their missionaries to Ethiopia. It was a sober moment, one which I shall not soon forget. Ethiopia, these people truly love you!
Then it was off to North Roxboro for our prayer meeting. And pray we did. For the team members and for the families we leave behind. For the work of Oshe and the others in Burji who have worked so hard to make this trip possible. For each team member and their personalized ministry. But especially for the wonderful people of Burji.
So, where does one begin to tell the story of Burji? In eternity past with the amazing love of God? In 1954 when Becky's parents left all the comforts of Dallas to get on a boat and sail to Africa?
In 2004 when Becky and I returned to her beloved Gambo? In 2008 when East will meet West again and the Bride will be seen in all her beauty? I do not know the answer to that question. But I do know this: there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one church, one Shepherd, one sheepfold, one authority, one table, one loaf of bread, one cup, one King, and one kingdom. Today we celebrated that kingdom and its King, for He is worthy of our ceaseless praise.
9:05 AM Today is going to be very full. It's our last Sunday to meet with our church family at Bethel Hill Baptist, then afterwards we are holding our final community-wide prayer meeting for Ethiopia, this time at North Roxboro Baptist Church. All are welcome. Lunch starts at 1:00 pm, prayer time at 1:30.
8:55 AM Becky just gave me my final haircut before we leave for Africa. (That is, she cut what little is left of my hair.) Should hold me over until I visit my favorite barber in the whole world. Haile has a small shop in Alaba but a huge clientele. Haile, see you soon!
7:46 AM Now here's some good news for a change: Kenya says kidnapped nuns safe in Somalia.
7:43 AM As a follow-up to my earlier post this morning I offer this essay by LA Times writer Jeffrey Fleishman: Obama could change dynamics in the Arab world. Those who believe that America's multiculturalism is a bad thing should take note. This is pure speculation, but it seems that Obama comes on the scene at a very opportune moment. As Fleishman observes:
7:25 AM You'll find this quote in chapter two of my forthcoming book. The citation is from Jim Elliott's journals. My point, and his, is that doctrine should always lead to discipleship. I hope you'll enjoy the quote as much as I did.
7:05 AM Good Sunday morning, one and all. As I prepare to travel again to an unstable part of the world, I am in prayer for our nation. With Iraq, a new norm has been established. The U.S. now has a foreign policy that virtually grants Washington the right of arbitrary aggression. Politely, we call it "anticipatory self-defense," but in reality it is no different from the policy of imperial Japan when it attacked Pearl Harbor on a date "which will live in infamy" (Franklin D. Roosevelt).
Whatever sympathy Japan might had for its cause disappeared on that terrible December morning in 1941. Well do I recall the global wave of support for the U.S. after 9/11. I marveled at the candlelight vigils, even in the streets of Tehran. Today Mr. Obama is receiving a similar outpouring of goodwill from the nations of the world -- or at least he is enjoying the absence of antipathy.
My prayer -- and yes, it is something I pray for -- is that the president-elect will do what George W. Bush should have done and could have done in the first place: implement a response to the attacks directed at the terrorists themselves and at the reservoir of potential support. I have traveled the world enough to know that not all of the grievances coming from the Middle East are legitimate. But many are, and they are the root cause of Islamic militancy. The pathology of hatred must be reduced before it creates even more chaos. In the meantime I sincerely hope that all Americans will realize that there is little moral difference between the U.S.'s jihad against those it deems its enemies and the Islamists' jihad against those they believe to be their enemies. The disastrous consequences of our current foreign policy can be objectively indicated. There is no need to be a born-again Christian to see this. Yet that is precisely why I pray. It is only the activity of God that can bring us out of the dilemma we face.
This is the hour neither for Realpolitik not for political activism. It is the hour for all Christians to rediscover who their neighbor is. It is not really a matter of politics at all. It is simply a matter of being who we are as Christians -- the Body of Christ, His hands, His feet, His heart -- a living expression of His love for all mankind.
This is the heart cry of my forthcoming book. This is why I am going back to Ethiopia. The amazing thing is that it took so long for me to realize that this is what Jesus meant when He said "follow Me." I've had a lot of repenting to do and still do.
Saturday, November 15
5:36 PM The sun set 25 minutes ago. When it did I was covered with horse manure from head to toe. Nate and Jess just got back from a trip out of town and, wind or no wind, the trailer's contents needed spreading. The van got stuck so we hitched up our trusty old Massie-Ferguson. No matter which way you tossed the dung it ended up getting all over you. And know what? I loved every minute of it. That's the hardest part of leaving the States. I really, really miss the farm. Even the manure. Now you KNOW I'm crazy!
By the way, the threesome down the farm path are joining us for some of B's great Ethiopian cuisine in a few minutes. I can smell it even as I type. I'd rather have Becky's home-cooked injera b' wat than eat in a fancy restaurant.
10:45 AM Right now I'm off to deliver Ethiopian prayer guides to the Roxboro area churches. The sun is finally awakening from its slumber!
10:37 AM At Truth Dig, Scott Ritter offers Mr. Obama some advice about his Iranian stance. Ritter seems optimistic:
10:30 AM Clifford Kvidahl reviews Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek.
Friday, November 14
6:10 PM Our email had a major hiccup today. If you've sent us an email in the past few days and have not received a reply yet, please consider resending. Thank you. Dave
6:06 PM STOP THE PRESSES! Oshe and the clinic shipment have arrived safely in Burji! From his email:
It doesn't get any better than this. People of Galana and environs, improved health care is on its way, thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ, whom we praise with our whole heart!
11:18 AM Restoration, not condemnation -- that's the responsibility of the church when a brother or sister falls. This point is nicely made in brother Woods' latest post.
When we first moved from southern California to the tobacco fields of North Carolina 10 years ago I learned that the Special Olympics are held in Raleigh. I recall watching one of the races on TV -- Down's Syndrome children running around a track full out. As they neared the finish line all of a sudden one of them fell down. Know what happened next? All of the other children stopped and picked up the fallen runner so that they could finish the race together.
When I saw that I said, "That's the church!" Restoration or condemnation? The answer is clear: Just read Gal. 6:1. Better still, let's memorize it and then practice it. (Three fingers are pointing at me!)
10:22 AM I've often emphasized on this blog the unity of the Body of Christ and the reality of being one with the church in Burji. But God does not look upon us simply as congregations but as individuals. To each one of us He says, "I love you. You are important to me." That includes Sarai our cook.
And elder Joseph, who loaned us his donkey so that Becky could get to Gambo where she grew up.
And our adopted son Worku, who is a servant in the Soyama town church.
And blind Shoko, who can recite from memory entire New Testament books.
This, my friends, is the beautiful Bride of Christ. We are so eager to see them again. Miss Mary said to me last night, "I am so excited about going back to Ethiopia I can't sleep at night."
You say you can't go to Africa. I have a suggestion for you. Practice the love you have with the people you know. However great our gifts, if we fail to love we are failures.
9:53 AM An FYI. Beginning in January I will be offering a course called "Greek for Dummies" at Bethel Hill Baptist Church near Roxboro, NC. Everyone, age 10 and above, whether genius or moron, is welcome to attend. Home scholars and entire families are especially welcome. There is no fee, but you will have to get a copy of our beginning grammar, which you can buy used at Amazon. I'll provide a pronunciation CD gratis. Enrollment will be limited to 30. And no, you do not have to be a Baptist to attend.
9:42 AM I was back in Rom. 1:14 for my devotions this rainy morning. Paul says, "I am debtor." Note that he did not say, "I owe a debt." One can always pay off a debt. But being a debtor goes much deeper than that. It is part of our very nature. It's something we are, not just something we do. Paul is saying that we are never without obligation to serve every man or woman whom we have an opportunity to serve. If anyone could have claimed to be a creditor instead of a debtor, it was the apostle Paul. BUT HE NEVER TRIED TO IMPRESS OTHER PEOPLE WITH HIS SUPERIORITY. Like his Savior, he served with all humility. That's because pride always closes the door to effective service.
Aesop once told a story about a frog who desired to spend the winter in warmer climes. It was too far away for him to hop so he decided to catch a ride with a couple of geese. He found a string and asked each goose to grip one end while he with his powerful jaws held onto the middle. And away they went. While they were heading south a farmer looked up with admiration and shouted, "Who invented that?" "I did," answered the frog. But that was his last invention.
7:49 AM Some pix from last night's orientation. The food Becky prepared:
First-timers Lynette and Molly get an explanation of Ethiopian etiquette.
Details, details, details.
The team itinerary, day by day.
Each member has a "ministry" suitcase, including seeds for the AG workshop.
Jason showing off his contribution to the effort: Ethiopian napkins.
Matt, Ed, Jamie, Lynette, Jon, Jason, Molly, Leigh, Cindy, Dave, Becky, and Mary.
Please keep your Burji team in your prayers. Only 8 days to go.
Thursday, November 13
12:44 PM Becky has just gone off to the grocery store to get the ingredients for her Ethiopian dishes. I can already taste the beriberi and smell the aroma of the doro wat and the tsige wat. Even Wikipedia has an entry on the cuisine of Abyssinia, though Becky hardly needs to cook with recipes.
12:04 PM I had to chuckle, albeit it uneasily, when I read Lionel Woods latest post called Battle Ram Christianity, simply because I have been guilty of it so often. I really believe that God opposes the proud because pride is an enemy of our highest usefulness in His service. How often are my "gifts" poisoned by the pride of the giver. You may remember that I have a lot to say about this in my forthcoming book on discipleship, which is really an autobiography of sorts. In any case, you'll enjoy -- uneasily perhaps -- what Lionel has to say.
11:52 AM We serve a serendipitous God, don't we? While driving to the post office to pick up our passports with our new Ethiopian visas, the BBC was reporting about the new Babylon exhibit at the British Museum. I had to chuckle because years ago I would not have had the faintest interest in the display. My interest in the Middle East is now fast-blooming.
9:02 AM Today, with the kind permission of the authors, I've been pouring over the second pages of Learn to Read New Testament Greek Workbook. I tell you, they have done a splendid job. It's entirely different from other workbooks I've seen and I can't wait to use it in my own classes. B & H Academic has granted my request that pages be available at ETS/SBL, and I don't think you'll be disappointed if you stop by their booth and take a peek. Of course, I realize that I am totally unbiased.
7:35 AM Now that Perspectives on the Ending of Mark has been released (Amazon should have copies shortly), you might be interested in reading the posts that Alan Knox wrote when he live-blogged the original conference back in 2007.
Others who commented are Josh McManaway and Theron Stancil. Again, my thanks to each one of you.
7:10 AM Good morning, blogging buddies. I've reflected a good deal lately on the anti-Muslim sentiment of a large segment of "Christian" America and have concluded that the problem is essentially theological. Too many modern evangelicals believe that the kingdom of Jesus is of this world. For them the cross is a sign of military victory as it was for Constantine. This political kingdom has to be installed by military power. To support the military crusade one needs a propaganda campaign.
This view, it seems to me, is held by a goodly number of conservative, Bible-believing Christians who undoubtedly think they are doing the right thing. An alliance between church and empire seems as natural to them as going out for supper after Sunday church. But I am frightened to see how readily the church has accepted this attitude. In my devotions this morning I was led to Rom. 1:14-15, in which I am instructed not to make any distinctions between people based on their ethnicity or level of education. How can the church, then, participate in the mistake of Constantinianism or advance the propagandistic line that "we must fight them" -- the "them" currently being all Islamic states? In reality the church ought to renounce all this. It should refuse to serve as an instrument of political force or propaganda. Yet how is this possible when the American flag flies proudly in our sanctuaries? The church of the martyrs wanted to obey God and not men. We have traded all that for padded pews, titles, honors, money, and "patriotism." The church is now politicized to the hilt. And therein, I believe, lies our problem.
There are many excellent churches in which the announcement that the U.S. flag is being removed from the place of worship would be about as winsome as the announcement that certain forms of contagious disease were to be put on display the following Sunday. But God is able to run His church without the pledge of allegiance. When Paul wrote to the Philippians he addressed them as "saints" (1:1). He could have addressed them as "Philippians," as he did in 4:15. But he was not concerned about their political status or nationality. Politically they were Philippians -- and to be such was a great honor in that day -- but God's amazing grace had made them saints. They now lived in a completely different sphere of existence. They belonged to a different order of things. They had been separated unto God. They existed for His glory, not Rome's.
Paul was very clear in this regard. "Our citizenship is in heaven," he wrote in Phil. 3:20. "Live as good citizens of heaven in a manner worthy of the Gospel," is the letter's first and most comprehensive command. The Book of Acts and Paul's letters show that political liberalism (or conservatism) is but an illusion. It is not against flesh and blood that we have to fight but against thrones and powers and authorities and against the princes of the world of darkness. The scandal is that the church continues to be used as an instrument of state propaganda, expecting many advantages from the state in return (tax exemption being one). Funny, I have never seen a national flag in the sanctuary of churches in other nations I have visited or preached in -- India, South Korea, Britain, China, France, Switzerland, Armenia, Germany, Holland, Romania, Israel, Ethiopia, etc. Jesus' attitude is not just apolitical but antistatist. I just don't know why it is so hard for American evangelicals to see this. We are to be citizens of heaven. All else is a perversion.
Wednesday, November 12
7:35 AM I've got a long list of things to do today at my office in Wake Forest. Afterwards I'll need to pick up some injera at the Abyssinian Restaurant in Raleigh for tomorrow night's Ethiopian feast. Only ten more days before we leave. Becky has already typed our prayer itinerary for those of you who would like to follow our day-in, day-out schedule. I'll post it next week. In the meantime I know I can count on your prayers for the clinic shipment. You guys are the greatest!
7:26 AM A wonderful ode was written by Mrs. Gussy Knott, poet-in-residence at North Roxboro Baptist Church. It's called "Full Time Missionary." It's based on a message I recently gave on Matthew 9:35-38 at the Beulah Baptist Association's annual meeting. Thank you so very much, Miss Gussy, for this labor of love.
7:12 AM Last Sunday I heard two of our Burji team members -- a husband and wife -- give testimony to the level of commitment it takes to leave father, mother, sister, brother, children, etc. for Christ’s sake. They mentioned how they had written their will and had seen to it that their young children would be cared for should mom and dad somehow not return from Ethiopia. It was a very moving testimony. The husband, by the way, is a "shepherd" (or "pastor," but the word is simply a metaphor). We in the West hardly understand the devotion of an Eastern shepherd to his flock. He loved his sheep. He was ready and willing to give his life for them. This fact came home to me a few years ago when I saw a picture on the BBC website of a young Ethiopian shepherd boy. The countryside had been flooded, and the government was evacuating stranded people by helicopter. In the picture stood this boy and his flock on a small hill, surrounded by miles of floodwaters. Above him stood the rescue helicopter, ready to lower its cage. But the boy refused to be rescued. He insisted on staying with his sheep, whatever the cost to him personally.
Jesus said that a good shepherd is like that. He gives his life for the sheep. This does not mean that we are never afraid. It does mean that more and more we learn to defy our fears. Like youthful David when confronted with lion and bear, we have the courage to put our lives at risk for the sake of the sheep. Only God knows what will befall our team in Ethiopia. But this I know: the shepherd’s path does not always lead through green pastures and beside still waters. Still, a good shepherd is courageous. What is courage? Courage is doing what we ought to do, even when our knees are buckling with fear.
Tuesday, November 11
12:11 PM Quick heads-up, students! Tomorrow I'll be on campus working on my syllabi for this coming J-Term and Spring Semester. If all goes as planned, these syllabi should be accessible on the seminary's website Thursday morning. If you have any questions feel free to email me. Once again, here are the courses I'll be teaching: J-Term: Greek I; Spring Semester: Greek II, Greek Syntax and Exegesis, and Intermediate Greek Grammar.
12:08 PM Yesterday was a veritable riot of joy, and today the silence seems deafening by comparison. I took Caleb and Isaac down to the road gate to get the mail and showed them our now-completed fence.
It gave me great satisfaction to know that every inch of fencing on our farm was put there by Nathan and me. We cut down every cedar, dug every hole, set every post, unrolled every foot of woven wire, pounded every staple, ran every centimeter of barbed wire, etc. All 123 acres were fenced in, plus a good deal of interior cross-fencing. Cuts, tick bites, mashed thumbs are now all but forgotten. Any way, every time I see the fence I am provided with a splendid excuse to say "thank you" to the God who gave Nate and me such a wonderful time of bonding.
Meanwhile, today Becky is working tirelessly on our trip preparations, including Thursday night's final orientation for the Burji team, at which she will serve authentic Ethiopian food that she herself will prepare. I always enjoy watching the looks on people's faces when they taste doro wat for the first time.
The BIG NEWS otherwise is that the clinic shipment will, Lord willing, be released from customs tomorrow -- pending our payment of a sizable tax. But at least it will be on its way southward. Praise the Lord for answered prayer! Hasn't He been good to us? Please pray for a safe journey for the truck as well as Oshe and the driver. It is a 17-hour drive from Addis to Soyama, if all goes well. Keep in mind that in Ethiopia, people think roads are meant for animals and pedestrians, not vehicles.
More happy pix from yesterday's "Day on the Farm":
Monday, November 10
2:35 PM We're having a great time with "our" boys. Right now they're down for their nap. Our projects today included cleaning out the last of our raised garden beds.
... helping Mama B nail up her rose bushes.
... pulling weeds.
... planting the new berry bushes.
... getting rid of the old shower curtains.
... and deep-cleaning the bath tub.
Here Micah serenades Papa B on the eclectic piano. He sang, "Jesus Loves the Little Children of the World."
And here Isaac shows me the lady bug he just found.
What great kids. After naptime we're going on an adventure walk into the woods. Who knows what we might find!
2:05 PM Any piece entitled U.S. Foreign Policy, Not Islamic Teachings Account for al-Qaeda’s Draw is going to grab my attention. Beyond the effects of spiritual and moral degradation, the anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S. does nothing but fuel the fire of radicalism on both sides of the equation. Ask any farmer: If you sow weeds, they will surely grow.
12:50 PM Farm Update:
1) We're seeing some bona fide (pardon the Latin) progress on Nate and Jessie's back porch. Got most of the wiring completed this weekend. Nathan also had me dig a big ditch and then fill it back in again. Then there's this pic: I was feeding Nathan some wire when I felt something crawl up my leg. Nathan insisted on capturing His Klutziness on film. Just before taking the picture he quipped, "Good thing I didn't pull any harder, dad."
2) Dadya is now official. At least her name is. She is now a Registered AKA Shetland Sheepdog. What's more, she is settling down nicely in her new home sweet home. Yours truly has gone from being a handy object to playfully bark at to a trusted friend and tummy rubber. She is a delight to watch growing up. Sure glad we kept her.
3) Nate and Jessie walked the property line to check on any broken fences. This Saturday WW III begins, aka hunting season, when otherwise fairly sane and normal adults lose all common sense and any respect they have for private property. Maybe it's just me, but I have never considered it "hunting" when grown men sit in their trucks by the side of the road and blast to pulp anything that moves.
4) Matt and Liz's kids are visiting Mama B and Papa B today. Got lots of farm work to do. They are always a big help. Pix to come.
10:12 AM I have to agree to a point with this ban on Latinisms. I myself am prone toward obfuscation in writing (for example, using words like "obfuscation"). Better to stick with short Anglo-Saxon expressions. In Latin I especially detest, inter alia, quid pro quo.
9:38 AM The latest addition to our home page is called What Government Cannot Do.
9:35 AM Yesterday I received a preposterous forward of a forward. You may have received something similar. I opened it because it was from a trusted sender. Or so I thought. It reads as follows:
I suspect this is yet another email hoax in that the Muslim feast of Eid has nothing to do Christmas as we know it. Still, to make a point, I decided to respond. Here was my reply:
Saturday, November 8
7:17 AM Over at the National Interest Ted Galen Carpenter asks perhaps the question of the hour: Will Mr. Obama's "change" in foreign policy be for the better or for the worse?
Really, it is a hugely important issue. I do not doubt Mr. Obama's Americanism, his obvious good will, his intelligence, and his fundamental optimism. Speaking personally, I am ready for a change from the McCarthyism and political demagoguery that frightens people with color-coded warnings at airports and impugns the patriotism of those questioning such inanity. Mr. Obama certainly has my prayers.
6:58 AM Mike Knox is excited about his Friday night sermon.
Friday, November 7
7:08 PM I've given up on proof reading tonight. I can no longer even see straight. Here's what I feel like right now.
On the other hand, Nate and Jess have just arrived -- with popcorn -- so I have nothing to complain about. Hasta la vista!
11:32 AM I see there's an entire post dedicated to understanding web jargon, which is, I think, a very good thing.
Now we really need someone to give us a discussion of the theological jargon and clichés we throw around even though we know we are speaking over people's heads. Here's a classic example: "to equip the saints for the work of the ministry." Wow. Sounds pretty astute. Of course, all Paul is saying is that pastor-teachers should be about one paramount thing: "to prepare God's people for works of service." Now that's more like it. Even I can understand what Paul is saying. Creeds yes, but deeds, yes, yes, yes! And deeds performed by ALL God's people, not just super-saints!
Maybe more of our translations should use the KISS method: Keep It Simple, Stupid.
11:14 AM Over at the Boston Globe, Andrew Bacevich has written a fine essay with perhaps an overly-optimistic title: Evangelical Foreign Policy Is Over. A snippet to whet your appetite:
Is our crusading really over? That will be determined by a number of critical factors, not least is the makeup of the president-elect's new cabinet, which so far does not look too promising (see Raimondo's latest: Forget the Honeymoon). What interesting days we live in.
10:13 AM Chuck Baldwin writes about the GOP implosion in his latest essay titled Conservatives Lost More Than An Election. Be sure not to miss his peroration.
By the way, my hat's off to my friend Chuck. He job was teeth-grindingly difficult. A spoiler he was, as Yoda might have put it. There were, blessedly, a few late endorsements (Ron Paul for one, though that didn't seem to matter much to the Paulinistas). I'm probably not the only one who appreciated Chuck's modesty and self-effacement, sans the swagger and gun slinging pose of 43. What a glorious respite it was to extol a constitutionalist who believes in limited government! Chuck struck a chord because his passionate efforts reflected those great American ideals of liberty and self-responsibility. No, I am not saying that politics is the solution to what ails us as a society. But if we claim to be a nation that follows the rule of law, why shouldn't we follow the "law"?
A tip of the old kepi, then, to two great American patriots. In multos annos!
9:46 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Be a Peter!
9:14 AM How are we getting along here at Rosewood? Much better now that the queen bee is back in the hive. Frankly, things were awfully boring around here without her. She gave me a complete (and exciting!) update last night over a wonderful Chinese buffet. Afterwards both my heart and stomach were filled to capacity. I don't understand why people aren't interested in their family's past, their heritage, their successes and failures, their struggles. I myself have only recently begun to explore my family tree (saps and all) and, interestingly enough, it seems that a major branch is to be found along an unknown creek in western Maryland -- unknown at least until 1862 -- the Antietam. If you've ever read about the Millers, them's my great and great-great grandfathers. German pacifists to boot. (Doesn't God have a sense of humor?) One day me and Nate is gonna take us a drive up to them parts and do some 'splorin', and that's fur sure.
Our Ethiopia trip kicks off in just two weeks. Are you still praying for the clinic shipment, which remains glued to the airport tarmac in Addis? We're making "progress" -- three steps forward, three steps back. But in spite of it all we remain undaunted in the Lord. We are being forced to rely totally and completely upon Him, which is always a good lesson to learn. Oshe very much needs our prayers, however.
Today my plans are to help Nathan finish the fencing and install some new indoor-outdoor carpet on our back porch. The day is beautiful. Enjoy it.
Thursday, November 6
12:57 PM A Former Leader's Journey has just posted a lengthy but well-worth-your-time piece aptly titled Husband Replacement. No silly photos on my end to accompany this essay. It's too serious, folks. By the way, anyone who unreflectively sneers at the author for questioning our unhealthy co-dependency needs some serious refocusing.
Pastors, PLEASE read it.
12:38 PM Lionel Woods has penned another winner with a remix on Matthew 23:8-12. As everybody knows, this is one of my favorite passages, which I suppose means that I better start practicing what it preaches. (Are you listening, "Brother" Jason? He-he!).
By the way, Big L, guess what I'm doing right now. Mopping the floor. LOL!
12:16 PM At Anti-War Jim Lobe continues his examination of Mr. Obama's foreign policy leanings in an essay called Obama to Seek Global Reengagement, But How Much? It's an interesting peek behind the curtain and will be of interest to anyone who travels abroad on a regular basis or is simply interested in U.S. foreign relations (that should be all of us, I suppose). I wonder if this quote doesn't make a good summary of his argument:
The biggest global challenges for the U.S. are still ahead, that's for sure.
10:04 AM I don't know how I missed this one, but you must read it: Last Thoughts On The Election.
8:55 AM Blogging, as everyone knows, bridges multiple social networks. That's what makes it one of the most powerful publishing options today. Blogging has, in fact, developed into a literary form of its own. It's instant self-publishing at its best (or, as the case may be, at its worst). Naturally I encourage my students to publish (that is, to publish journal articles, book reviews, etc. in print venues). Many have already done so. (Kudos to you!) But I am also encouraged to see so many of them publishing their ideas on the Internet. To me, this is as legitimate as writing for Filologia Neotestamentaria, despite the objections of the blog-wary purists. Along the way, we can actually see their ideas develop, their writing improve, their convictions emerge side-by-side with their blog posts. We have yet to see what the long-term impact of student blogging will be. But I for one believe that things are working out quite nicely.
So to all student bloggers I say: your truth-telling is making a difference. Don't give up the ship!
7:28 AM This has got to be one of the best posts I've read on church leadership, other than the ones I've written. Seriously, it is good to have this kind of discussion on the record. I can testify from personal experience that these words are true (NB: lower case is in the original):
The whole piece is well worth reading.
7:25 AM I just received my invitation to the 2009 meeting of the SNTS in Vienna next summer. Here are the seminars one can choose from. I predict a very good turn out. Austria is lovely, and Vienna even boasts an Ethiopian church I would like to visit. Might make a nice 33rd wedding anniversary trip for Becky and me.
7:23 AM Here's an interesting list of world headlines after the Obama victory. For your interest and (perhaps even) your edification, I've added a couple more here:
By far the most interesting of these headlines, at least to me, are those of Die Zeit ("Mister President: We are Worried!") and the Iran Daily (for obvious reasons).
My thanks to this wonderful website: onlinenewspapers.com.
7:00 AM Every time someone discovers the writings of Karl Barth I give a cheer, not least when they happen to be a Roman Catholic. Kudos, then, to Mark the Aristotelian, with the hope that many others will join him. Agree or disagree with Barth, you can't very well ignore him, as the writer correctly notes. NB: For a really good Barth quote (I promise), go here.
6:56 AM I'm not surprised to hear it, but it's nice to see it in print:
A classic case in point: People often say that I work in "Africa." That's true, but it's easy to overlook the fact that Africa is comprised of some 54 independent nations, none of which is like any of the others. I predict a lot of people also don't realize just how America-centric the church in many African nations is, including the church in Ethiopia. This came home to me recently when I picked up a copy of the so-called "Africa Study Bible" and saw that it was (again) lumping all of Africa into one indistinguishable lump. I found indeed very little that had to do with Africa except for the occasional comment "in Africa, people...." We Westerners may be excused for making such misjudgments, but Africans themselves should know better (the authors were mostly trained in the West). In Ethiopia the language of instruction in the theological colleges is still English, and there is very little literature produced in Amharic. This will all change, I hope, with the next generation of Bible scholars. As Mr. Joseph notes, this is not an unimportant matter.
6:45 AM I won't belabor the point, but I sure do enjoy not raking leaves any more. It's a total waste of time and energy (we don't use leaf mulch). Plus, don't you think the Lord put those leaves there for a reason (my wife says it's God putting the earth to sleep for the winter and covering it up with a blanket)? But I think this essay says it much better than I ever could: Why Raking Leaves is Wrong!
No, you are not permitted to disagree.
6:33 AM This is one of the most beautiful fall days I've witnessed. I wish you could see the foliage bursting forth in color and the bluebirds chirping. Today is also THE BIG DAY -- Becky gets back home. They made it as far as Black Mountain, NC, last night. Should be home around mid-afternoon. They are having a perfectly delightful time, thank the Lord.
Wednesday, November 5
4:04 PM Over at Biblical Evangelism, I find an excellent essay distinguishing mere believism from obedient discipleship. My eyebrows rose a bit when I read this:
Simply priceless. Oddly enough, when I introduce myself to someone I have never met before (say, on an airplane) I tell them I'm a follower of Jesus. Simple and to the point. I don't use the term "Christian" anymore.
1:59 PM By the way, Obama-mania has hit, of all places, Ethiopia. T-shirt sales prove it. Maybe I can get one in November. I have a very good friend stateside who would love it, size extra-large.
1:04 PM And now a brief departure from our normal fare here at DBO. Let's play a little game of "Who said it?"
For you purists:
Here's the answer. He could have been writing today.
10:56 AM Is library-gazing a new trend in publishing? Not only do we get this interesting overview from when-I'm-not-studying-Greek-Mike, but there's a new book out on Hitler's reading habits called Hitler's Private Library, which is discussed here.
You would be truly embarrassed at my library holdings -- or lack thereof. I love tomes so much I've had to squelch the urge to buy books and instead visit libraries. I will add one more thing: If you really want to know what a man thinks, I think his marginalia will tell you more than his book shelves.
10:25 AM God bless our new president, and our out-going one.
9:54 AM Alan Knox does it again, this time writing about who the true charismatics are. I remember being appalled at the way certain evangelicals had pirated the term and narrowed its meaning back in the 60s and 70s. In any event, I hope you find Alan's post as compelling as I did.
9:43 AM Over at A Beautiful Collision, Drew Pearce offers up some post-11/4 advice. Warning: It contains jarring common sense throughout.
8:52 AM I've already written briefly about Peter's teaching on church leadership in an essay called There's Only One Senior Pastor and It's Not Us! But a new thought has occurred to me. The name Peter, of course, means "Rock." (I believe that in the Cotton Patch Version, Peter, son of John, is called "Rock Johnson." LOL!) Jesus once paid Peter a great compliment: "You are Rock, and on this rock I will build My church."
Many, of course, think that Jesus is inaugurating apostolic succession here. But note that Peter himself says: "Come to Him [not, come to me!], to that living stone ... and, like living stones, be built into a spiritual house" (1 Pet. 2:4-5). Wow! Peter, the Rock, regards himself as simply one of those stones. I see this humility in Peter everywhere I look in his epistles, not least when he calls himself a "fellow elder" in 1 Pet. 5:1.
I don't know about you, but God's got a lot more hewing to do on this prideful stone.
7:58 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Are You a Teacher?
7:45 AM I'm not well suited to political commentary, but I do have a few post-election reflections to leave with you this fine morning.
1) Let's take Paul's call in Phil. 1:27-2:4 to non-partisan unity and unselfish humility to heart. We should be supremely concerned that we order our lives as citizens of heaven in a manner worthy of the Gospel. Let us stand side by side, struggling with one soul for the faith of the Gospel. Let there be no factional or party strife whatsoever, no selfish egotism, no empty vainglory. Let us, like Euodia and Syntyche (4:2), lay aside our differences of feeling and work together for the sake of the kingdom. Amen?
2) Let us also focus on mutual burden-bearing as brothers and sisters in Christ (Gal. 6:1-5). The Holy Spirit always produces a spirit of gentleness rather than a "holier-than-thou" attitude. When the load is about to weigh your brother or sister down, step forward and pick it up with self-sacrificing love. As Christians let us put unity above our personal opinions about secondary matters. The kingdom of God is not a matter of food or drink or political affiliation. It is a matter of righteousness (dealing justly with others), peace (living in harmony with all, especially the brethren), and joy (that results from living under the daily influence of the Holy Spirit).
3) Let us never forget that Christ is far above all human authorities and powers. May He have the first place (Col. 1:18) in all that we do!
Tuesday, November 4
12:50 PM I love good Bible teaching. I got my fill of it last Sunday, that's for sure. Both by my Sunday School teacher (a "layman") and my pastor (a "professional") -- not that the distinction means anything to me, or to them. One simply recognizes good teaching intuitively. There's a combination of truth and driving passion. I do not despise a man because he does not possess an earned degree in theology, and I do not automatically listen to a man because he does. If your church has good teachers, turn them loose to teach. Pay no attention whatsoever to a man's head knowledge. Learn a lesson from the early church (Roland Allen, The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, p. 49):
I can already hear the vexed outcries of the magisterials among us. I won't belabor the point that, whatever benefits a formal education might offer (and there are, indeed, many), the degrees we tout do not define what makes a good teacher.
Why, my "lay" Sunday School teacher even had the audacity to chuck the quarterly and replace it with the Bible. Next thing you know he'll be asking us to bring ours.
11:44 AM Just voted at the local convenience store. There were two of us there voting. I saw one other car while driving 6 miles to the polling place. Man do I love country living.
Of course I voted for all the right people.
9:51 AM Once again, God is proving His willingness to help and deliver at the perfect time. I just spoke with brother Oshe in Addis. Because of certain demands by the customs officials at Bole Airport, our shipment has been, well, stuck. The chief obstacles we now believe to have been taken care of, so Oshe will again meet with the officials tomorrow morning at 8:00 to request that the shipment be released to the tax department for an assessment. This is progress, and it comes in answer to your petitions. At least I no longer feel like we're planting cut flowers.
Rest assured that you'll hear from us as soon as we get a report from Oshe. And thank you for your love for Ethiopia.
8:22 AM It is bedlam in the world of finance. Not here, but in France, where MacDonald's has taken over the culinary world by storm. Over at Times Online Hugo Rifkind notes how the "macdoh" makes more money in France than in Great Britain: Supersize ... moi? How the French learnt to love McDonald's. I'm told a Big Mac costs $11.00. It is entertaining to imagine the French president munching on a cheeseburger. Instead of cannoli, there's an order of French fries. Instead of red wine, there's a Coke. When we lived in Basel, we visited the local MacDonald's religiously every Friday night to get a Big Mac (hers) and Filet O' Fish (him). Today the city boasts four franchises. Call it cultural imperialism, but it's spreading everywhere. Except in Yerevan.
7:43 AM On the Greek front, Mike over at En Epheso confirms the murmurings that a grammar of New Testament Greek discourse analysis is being produced. Be sure to read comment #4 by the grammar's author. Many of you will want to consider taking him up on his offer.
7:38 AM Not that it matters (except perhaps to me), but Red Phillips is irrepressible in this essay over at Ether Zone about Chuck Baldwin: Conservative Endorsements Rolling In: For Chuck Baldwin. The fact is that Chuck is too conservative for most conservatives.
7:26 AM I heard from Becky, who reports that things are going splendidly well in Kentucky. Yesterday they were able to locate the family cemetery. Today they are in the hunt for her great-grandfather's home site. They have no recollection where it is, though both Becky and her father have been there before. They will be flying by the seat of their pants. It's going to be an interesting day, Toto.
Monday, November 3
7:10 PM Election eve, and a good time to reflect on the presidency. The past 8 years have been a slap that reset the clock for me. In truth, I spent much of my adult life thinking that America was God's special gift to the world. I've traveled too much now to think that way anymore. Just as most Americans don't really understand English until they've learned a foreign language, so I think it is very difficult to understand America unless you've lived abroad. The more I travel, the harder it is to overlook or excuse America's self-made cul-de-sacs. By all estimation, Ethiopia is one of the poorest nations in the world, if not the poorest, yet I think people are happier there than in the U.S. Ethiopia has its own rules, its own codes, its own problems, but at least it doesn't have a president who is both messianic and radical, a man who lives inside an information bubble, a man who admits that "the most objective sources I have are people on my staff, who tell me what's happening in the world" -- aka faithful aides who tell him what he wants to hear. When I helped put him into office in 2000 I was hopeful. Once he was in office, I witnessed a bait-and-switch that even the brightest pundits had "misunderestimated." The GOP, now driven by the religious right and the neoconservative worldview, lost whatever support I once gave it. How did he get away with it? The empty phrases, the non sequiturs, the unprovable assertions, the aw-shucks indifference, the ideologically-driven policies -- who could have foreseen this? Is it unfair that he has been called the "Bungling Bully"? There are so many unanswered questions. A war on terror that doesn't focus on terrorists? Simplistic nostrums about us against them? Eschatology in place of intelligence? America an empire? Some of the most important questions will probably never be answered. There's one more question that begs to be asked, however. Was empire worth it? Perhaps the conservative Economist magazine answers it best (Aug. 14, 2003):
The sad truth is that, even as we close the books on W's term of office, imperialism is bigger than one political party or one presidential administration. It is a state of mind whose gravitational pull has proven irresistible throughout the ages. Just call it politics I guess.
Good evening, and happy election day.
5:26 PM "Without the comma, everything changes." Read Leaders As Equippers.
3:50 PM Here's another mandatory linker: Letter to Pro-Life Friends. Ominously, I don't think pro-lifers get it, though.
I'll have some final thoughts on the election tonight.
11:59 AM Matthew McDill has a way of cutting through the underbrush when it comes to church leadership, and I recommend this post of his: Church Leaders Serve, Not Rule. And yes, you guessed it: I don't hesitate to link to my doctoral students when I think it's appropriate.
11:45 AM Fellow Virginians, a heads-up. If you are voting for Chuck Baldwin tomorrow, remember that he appears on the ballot as an Independent Green Party (rather than a Constitution Party) candidate.
10:56 AM Lionel Woods is one of my favorite writers, and I think you should not miss this piece of his: A Note from My Muslim Neighbor to Americans. We talk so blithely in this country about "them Ay-rabs" because we are good at forgetting that God loves all people. And believe me, the hatred will only escalate after Obama is elected. As you'll probably be able to guess, I do not share the opinion of many of my fellow Americans about Muslims. I'll tell you one thing: they don't know what to do with scandalous love, the love Jesus showed to lepers and outcasts.
Day before yesterday I got gas from a station in Oxford owned by an immigrant from Yemen. (I had guessed wrong. I had asked him if he was from Lebanon.) I engaged him in casual conversation. I think we both enjoyed it. I plan to stop there for gas from now on.
By the way, for what it's worth you can read more about my thinking on this topic here: Redestined to Be a 4-Point Missionist. Better yet, read Acts 1:8.
9:54 AM My list of things to do today (to keep busy):
9:43 AM Over at the Better Bibles Blog, Peter Kirk assesses "Google Translate." He writes:
I think my favorite line in his Psalm 23 attempt at computer translation is:
The comments are also well worth your time.
9:12 AM Everyone interested in U.S. foreign policy always read what anti-war pundit Justin Raimondo has to say. In his latest commentary he refers (again) to Orwellian language:
Oddly enough, George Orwell just happens also to be the theme of a current Newsweek essay: We Need to Call a Pig a Pig. Provocative words here, which do indeed make me think that politicians have a special gift in intentional obfuscation.
8:48 AM Dan Edelen offers some pre-election advice. It may make you grit your teeth, but it's worth reading, and even heeding.
7:31 AM I was reading lately that the Shetland Sheepdog was originally called a "Toonie," from a Norwegian word for the front yard of a farmhouse. Gracious, I do believe there's some truth in that. I know of no place Sheba would rather be than sitting on the front porch of Bradford Hall gazing at her sizable land holdings. The breed also has a finely tuned sense of boundaries, which perhaps is one reason our puppy Dayda seems a bit uncomfortable going over to Nathan and Jessie's -- make that -- Sheppie and Sadie's farm. What I love most about Shelties is their absolute loyalty to their masters. They are intensely affectionate to boot. They make wonderful friends when all the bipeds in your family have gone off gallivanting.
7:27 AM Five years ago this month I began blogging. Through these pages you have traveled with me, seen me grow, sensed perhaps my own darker side at times, and (I hope) found encouragement from my own experiences. I want to express my sincere thanks and love to the many warmhearted readers who have supported me through their prayers and emails. How can a man describe his amazement at knowing that thousands of men and women whom he will never meet this side of heaven have been praying on his behalf? In addition, a kind Father has helped me every step of the way. My prayer is that He would continue to give me grace to glorify Him through a submissive and yielded spirit in the years to come. I will say this too: If my maunderings aren't always up to the highest standards, I'll try my best to do better. But, knowing some of you, it will be a brobdingnagian task.
7:21 AM Yes, Greek is a language.
7:16 AM I see that a new Basel German dictionary is in the works. Glory be! Especially for anyone wanting to enroll in the university there, as I did way back in 1980. Standard German may have been "officially" spoken at the Uni-Basel, but once you got out into the hallway all you heard was dialect. My last Sunday in Switzerland I actually tried to preach in the local language. Can you believe I was that naive?
7:10 AM Is your church a "Philippian" church?
Paul spoke very highly of that congregation. Their zeal and devotion were exemplary. They sent to supply his needs twice when he was in Thessalonica and they supplemented what he could make by working at his trade during his stay in Corinth. Their generosity was contagious, for Paul speaks of the liberality of the "Macedonian churches" (1 Thess. 1:7-8), probably referring not only to Philippi but also to the churches in Thessalonica and Berea. In Phil. 1:3-8 Paul thanks God for the church's "fellowship" or participation with him in the Gospel and its furtherance from the day he set foot in Philippi. They had become "co-partners" (the Greek term is delightful) with Paul in the grace of giving. In Phil. 4:10-20 he describes how they were always thinking of him and how they had willingly shared with him in the matter of "giving and receiving." But nothing the Philippians had given could match God's own glorious wealth. So Paul adds, "My God shall supply every need of yours!"
Becky and I are privileged to know and work with many "Philippian" churches. Like the primitive church in Acts 1, they are intentional in making plans to take care of the unusual economic conditions of those who are less well-off materially than they are. The outpouring of the Spirit brings a spiritual unity and a fraternal fellowship that cannot permit a brother to suffer want. Here I want to say how much I appreciate all of the congregations whose liberal financial help (every penny of which goes to Ethiopia and not to our own expenses) is an example to Becky and me of the exceedingly great graciousness of our God and the unfeigned love of His people.
Sunday, November 2
2:35 PM Well, the Intrepid Five (including the baby!) have just driven out of the driveway laden with cemetery files, maps, and coffee, to start the long hop over to the great state of Kentucky. For two days they will skirt the mountains of western North Carolina and Tennessee in an attempt to penetrate the picturesque hills of the Blue Grass State. Last night they Googled and Yahood but finally gave up trying to locate the old family cemetery, which is one of their main destinations, so I'm in much prayer that they'll find it somehow. They'll spend a couple of days in state and then begin the trek back home, where Granddaddy will meet up with his son Ben's family in Cary before catching his flight back to Dallas on Saturday. Things are already very quiet around here, and I plan to get some writing and editing done while the family is gone. I'm specially asking the Lord to help Becky, who had a challenging (but victorious!) week last week, to just "unlax" and enjoy herself. I cannot begin to tell you what a blessing the Lapsleys have been to our family and what their example has meant to us as we water where they planted 50 years ago in Ethiopia. I hope the five of them have many pleasant discussions on this trip and build many happy memories for future generations.
Meanwhile Becky and I are ecstatic in the Lord having received the most wonderful news from Gondar concerning one of our Ethiopian sons. God knows that we cannot provide spiritual guidance to these children in our strength. But He is the living God and is eager to answer our prayers. Again and again the Lord graciously attends to our needs. We are filled with inexpressible delight at His love. Praise the Lord. He has truly answered our prayers.
Right now it's time to walk the farm and check up on all the herds. Otherwise, that's all the dope for now.
Saturday, November 1
10:12 PM Just back from the airport. Granddaddy is in fine fettle. Couldn't wait to meet the new puppy. He's got four.
Have a great evening, and don't forget to set your clocks back tonight.
6:13 PM No news here. Nate and I used up much of our newly acquired tin as barn siding today. My job was ditch digging and installing "anti-ground hog wire" at the base of the barn.
I also served as gofer for Nathan, who installed most of the siding.
Here's a before shot.
Right now I'm off to RDU to pick up Becky's dad. He'll be showing Becky, Nate, and Jess the home site where his father grew up in Kentucky. They leave after church tomorrow. I'll watch the farm.
9:46 AM If you'll scroll down a bit you'll see some pix I just posted. As I reflected on two of them this morning I just had to jot down these thoughts:
1) When Nathan sowed the grass seed in that enormous field he did not assume the task of making the seed germinate. That's not a farmer's business; that's God business. And we are to keep our hands off of God's business. We are to do what God tells us to do and leave the results to Him. That is the way of victory in everything in life, including clinic shipments.
2) When I arrived in a small village in Ethiopia last year I was met by a withered and wrinkled piece of womanhood who came forward and greeted me. She became my adopted "mother" during my entire stay there. Helen of Troy was not as beautiful as this woman. Beauty is not obtained at the beauty parlor or at the cosmetic counter. The inward beauty of which Peter speaks (1 Pet. 3:3-4) is not the beauty of nature but rather supernatural. I will never forget my saintly adoptive "mother," for her beauty was astonishing.
9:40 AM One of our Ethiopian sons is currently in South Africa representing the church in Alaba. David, we love you and are praying for you!
9:32 AM Brother Lionel is sounding more and more Anabaptistic all the time. Which, to me, is a very good thing. To quote Pilgram Marpeck (cited in my new book):
9:28 AM Need some help with your Greek? You might find this useful.
9:24 AM At the ETS/SBL conferences this year, Logos Bible Software is having a super sale on numerous textbooks, including one of my own.
9:20 AM If you've ever tried to teach yourself theological German, you'll appreciate this Ph.D. student's story.
9:14 AM Thanks to David Ford, I now know of four free books in Spanish, including McGrath's The Anabaptists: Neither Catholics Nor Protestants.
9:12 AM Congratulations to the Better Bibles Blog on their new site. It looks fantastic!
9:08 AM Ends and odds:
1) Nathan sowed this huge field with grass seed. By hand.
2) Our scavenger par excellence found a couple of old barns in Granville County. We spent yesterday getting the tin off their roofs.
3) Et voila! We'll put this tin to good use today on a job at a farm near us.