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November 2009 Blog Archives

Monday, November 30

8:54 PM A student will be studying Latin with me next semester as an independent study. I've asked him to lay off classical Latin. Caesar is one big bore (my opinion only), though Cicero is interesting. But Nunn's ecclesiastical Latin grammar will be a joy to work through and will enable one to read the Vulgate and especially the church fathers.

Augustine is always a challenge to work through. In Basel I studied Augustinian theology and the class was mostly in Latin. I have read maybe 60,000 words of Latin in my lifetime -- not a lot, but enough to ruminate on. I believe and rather hope that the neglect of Latin as a research language will shortly be left behind us all, and that Western civilization will return to the warm and luminous places where it was born (along with Greek of course).

8:38 PM What? A proposition to ban divorce? Why, good folks, serious social issues do NOT, repeat do NOT, include serial polygamy in these here United States! Repeat after me: Gay marriage and abortion, gay marriage and abortion!! Public protest is not allowed when it comes to the most egregious of all sins in evangelicalism. Divorce is AOK in many Bible/Religious Belt churches. It's the Trojan Horse of evangelical ethics. A nation that is half stupefied by groupthink over "grave moral issues" will not even stop to consider how much more subtle the danger of divorce is to the fabric of our society than is gay marriage. Besides, if we go after divorce, who knows -- Bible Belt obesity might be next on the list. A sad, sad, business, all this public moralizing is. It's like a deaf man's criticism of music.

6:30 PM From Theological German comes the word of the day (from Barth the Elder):

Sofern er in ihm auch der Wahrheitsfrage gegenüber verantwortlich ist, ist jeder Christ als solcher auch zum Theologen berufen.

I am suffering agonies at the moment over the appalling truthfulness of this statement. All I can do is hope to go on finding this unreasonable assertion (aspiration?) sufficiently true despite all evidence to the contrary.

6:10 PM I have just surfaced from a deep sleep and am now packing my things for two days on campus. I am feeling too tired and stupid to write anything intelligent at the moment or indeed to write anything at all, but I do want to congratulate (again) the greatest biblioblogger of all time. His blog is always a good read, and indeed it is a mere indulgence, a vice if you will, quite as deplorable as any other habit. But I never really feel I have my pulse on blogdom unless I am perusing his pontifications. A future of poverty, hunger, and utter deprivation looms menacingly to anyone who dares ignore the Prince of Pen Power. I think, if I were an immensely rich voluptuary, I would go about in terry cloth and ashes for a few days, but because of my recent meds all such expostulations on my part are worthless.

All this to say: Warmest congratulations, Dr. Jim (spoken with a seraphic smile.)

3:24 PM Going down to rest the old back. Let's continue to pray for the Frank Page family.

2:55 PM The question is being asked as to whether blogging is superficial. Of course it is, man. My superficial ramblings are, well, renowned for their superficiality. "Every gross brained idiot is suffered to come into print," said Thomas Nash in 1592. Now, I'm not talking about being glib. Superficiality is one thing, glibness is quite another. Jim West is glib. But he is never superficial. Being superficial takes real talent. I know that sounds like a glib statement, but you are probably confusing it with flippancy. Glibness is positively inhuman, whereas superficiality is sappy opportunism. Tweeters, man, are like flippant because they manage to shill without any value added content. Twitter should really introduce a "flip" chart, know what I mean? The whole Twitter thing is, like, soooo flippant. Flippancy describes something so sickeningly lame to the point of being vomitous, right? Gag me with a spoon if you like, but get off your superficial hang-up, okay?

1:05 PM In the Great Escape tunnel one of the two "halfway houses" was called Piccadilly Circus, a term that reminds me of a very pleasant few days I spent in London shopping in the used bookstores in the famous Circus.

It has by far the finest collection of World War II books in the world -- with a dash of really smart and affable folk whose only vice was their slight speech impediment (or was it my accent that made them sound so strange?). I also did a certain amount of sight seeing, museums and the like (the British Museum and, of course, Baker Street), but nothing could match the sheer joy of buying good books at very cheap prices. What a nest of warbling and aggressive salesmen, matched only by the villainous and insufferable weather of London. I very much regret that our flights to Ethiopia do not go through London because Piccadilly is one top dive I tell you.

11:38 AM As promised, I have read the book of 1 Thessalonians in Greek, in one sitting of course. The book throws such a vivid light on the spirit of real evangelism. Their happiness was intense and their misery equally piercing. It was a great life. It reminds me so much of the Ethiopian church. What a sinister character that Tempter is, falling on the necks of the believers with such joy and delight. But there they were: the Thessalonian Christians, about 40 strong, probably meeting in Jason's home, working out their faith, expressing their love to the point of exhaustion, and never giving up even in the face of the fiercest enemy/Enemy. I love reading books in foreign languages, but no book is as dear to me as my little old Novum Testamentum. Should I ever lose my copy I would be completely deprived of my sanity.

10:56 AM Speaking of the Swiss, praise where praise is due. With the Iraqi people at the edge of survival after a decade of devastating sanctions, Switzerland hosted a meeting of 30 countries to prepare for what might lie ahead if Iraq were invaded. The U.S. alone refused to attend. American plans for humanitarian relief in a postwar Iraq were described as "short on detail, woefully lacking in money, and wrongly controlled by the military." The Swiss correctly pointed to the savagery of the sanctions. The rest is now history. Thank you, my Swiss friends, for standing up for basic human rights. It is in your DNA.

10:32 AM That really was very nice of Jim West to mention my idea of a Gospels conference. Thank you very much indeed. I have already hosted two such conferences, with much pleasure and profit, and now look forward to going on to another one, pending approval and funding by the administration of course. Several prominent names have already cropped up as major speakers, and except for one (who is always extremely dilatory and unreliable) I have every confidence that we can assemble an attractive panel. And what a topic! Nothing diminishes the plethora of rationalizations about Gospel origins quite like scholars getting together and discussing their differences. Agreements may exist, or they may not. I find the desire for lucidity grows in me. Not mere simplification, but clean dissection of the data and clear exposition of as much of the immeasurable complexity of the data as one can dig into. Wake Forest in the springtime is ideal, both climactically and socially. The campus is incredibly beautiful. And the country round about it is wonderful as well. I am delighted to think that I shall possibly have the opportunity of renewing acquaintances begun so long ago under the auspices of SBL and SNTS.

And my health? My recovery trickles along very quietly here, but I have Becky to look after me and my pains are beginning to evaporate. I will spend today's tedious hours writing frantically about what I think Godworld looks like and how it contrasts with Christendom, which is the fruit of our political megalomania. What a weary imbecility Christianity has become! The whole of the twenty-first century is doomed to repeat the errors of the twentieth, as it it seems intent on extolling the imperial destinies of the past.

P.S. Becky will accompany me to campus tomorrow. She is planning on baking cakes for my Greek students who will be turning in and grading their exams tomorrow afternoon.

8:45 AM This story at the Washington Post made me smile: A muscular, die-hard spirituality. Self-sufficient Christians prepare for Second Coming or for life after global disaster. I suspect that many people think we moved to our farm because we are end-time survivalists. That is ridiculous. We simply enjoy farming and the great outdoors. As for having weapons, we are pacifists. Just well-armed ones.

8:35 AM This football analogy works: Fourth and Long. The essay appears over at Foreign Policy. There is something very delightful about low politico-intrigues by which the war appears to be run in the exalted upper regions of the inter-allied marketplace. Here's the zinger quote:

The exaggerated fear of al Qaeda creates a sellers' market for policies advertised as confronting terrorism, like surging troops in Afghanistan. Without threat inflation, the war flunks a simple cost-benefit analysis. Nearly 500 coalition troops have died fighting this year. By some estimates, sending another 40,000 troops to Afghanistan will bring the war's cost to about $100 billion a year, and that's not even counting long-term expenses like veteran's care, and investments foregone at home. Given a realistic threat assessment, it is hard to see how a drawdown in Afghanistan would allow al Qaeda to do enough damage to justify these costs. That's true even if you grant hawks their questionable assumptions that our troops don't just inflame the Pashtun separatism that fuels the Taliban and that Afghan Taliban commanders would again harbor al Qaeda.

The only fault in this way of thinking is that all these people are so happy and have so much power that they will never allow the war to stop if they can possibly help it. I'm afraid that tomorrow night's speech will simply be more of well clichéd pabulum on the lines of "We shall not sweathe the schword etc."

8:24 AM Once again I must voice my agreement with Eric's choices: Michael DeBusk was an excellent student of mine and is an excellent blogger.

8:14 AM People who memorize entire books of the New Testament are rare indeed. One such individual emailed me this morning to say that he will be "performing Luke as an eyewitness" at Wakefield Baptist Church on December 11 and 12. He is also holding a master story telling workshop on the 12th. For details, go to Thanks, Bruce, for the information, and I certainly wish your performances well.

P.S. I know large portions of the New Testament by heart (in English and Greek) but have never sat down to intentionally memorize them. Odd, eh?

7:48 AM This is very good news indeed.

7:43 AM Kevin Sam has posted a review of Christless Christianity by Michael Horton. I still don't know what to think about the review. But there is a mass of useful material lying here. Check it out for yourself.

7:36 AM Great news! The Halcombs have arrived in Ethiopia to meet their newly adopted son for the first time. You can follow their adventure here. Expect oodles of pictures too. One word of caution, Michael: Don't snap photos of any public buildings, military installations, and the like, or your camera is likely to be confiscated by the police. Becky and I send along our very warmest wishes for a fruitful and pleasant stay in Utopia. I hope all goes well with you and your (growing) family. It will if you remember one word: "Flow." When things go wrong (as they will from time and time), just remind yourselves, "We're flowing."

7:30 AM Here's more from the Basler Zeitung:

Den Initianten ist es gelungen, die Ängste, die man im Ausland gegenüber dem Islam hat, auf die Schweiz zu übertragen. Andere Länder in Europa wären froh, sie hätten eine solche islamische Gemeinschaft. Hierzulande sind die Muslime stark integriert, gerade im Vergleich zu Frankreich und Deutschland. Das Resultat liegt also nicht an den Muslimen, die in der Schweiz leben.

That first sentence says it all: Den Initianten ist es gelungen, die Ängste, die man im Ausland gegenüber dem Islam hat, auf die Schweiz zu übertragen. I have seldom met with a more profound or distasteful use of that catchall word: Angst. Somewhere, though, I believe the Bible says that perfect love casts out all fear.

7:24 AM This map tells a tragic story. Except it's the green part that is fanning the flames of cultural conflagration.

The Swiss have caved into political correctness. The Swiss of all people! That little red dot at the top of the photo represents an island of sanity. Basel was one of only 4 of the 26 Swiss cantons that refused to support the anti-minaret referendum. (This is the same Basel which, by the way, was only too happy to open its gates in the sixteenth century to such politically incorrect thinkers as a young Frenchman named Jean Cauvin, who wrote his famous Institutes in that city on the Rhine. Had it not been for the tolerance and open-mindedness of the Baslers, John Calvin might well have ended up as a pile of Carbon-14.)

"Leaders of Switzerland's Islamic community of about 350,000 people said they were baffled by the logic of the referendum's proponents and rejected equating minarets with Sharia, or Islamic law," wrote the Los Angeles Times in an article entitled Swiss voters pass ban on minarets. Baffled? Now that's an understatement. I can only find it all rather comic -- though also tragic.

To my Swiss friends I say: Cette voile presque imperceptible de la vulgaritè verbale et rhythmique les couvre et, pour des yeux anglais et americain, les défigurent. And to my many Christian friends and loved ones who live in Basel, who claim to follow Yeshua who died for Muslims (as well as for people of all religions), I plead with you: Now is the time for you to stand up with one voice and denounce this dastardly referendum.

What we see happening in Switzerland is depressing. But then what isn't depressing in Europe these days? And one doesn't really see any very obvious way out of the difficulty. It's time for the church to be the church and to stand up for the outcasts and the riffraff and the lepers and the despised in society. If my former professor in Basel Markus Barth were alive today, I believe he'd be tearing his hair out. But the possibility of a reversal in thinking among the Swiss of today seems almost infinitely small.

7:15 AM The Christian Science Monitor is reporting that a new Agatha Christie story has been unearthed. Very good indeed. I always found her works very interesting to tinker away at. But to be perfectly honest with you, the only novelist who really takes the lid off and makes me think is the famous American story-teller Helen MacInnis.

In reading her books I always feel like I've been plunged into what seems to be a permanent cold foggy drizzle. The more I read, the more I hope (and pray!) that it will be sunny some time again -- and when the sun does shine again it makes its appearance with positive ferocity. Have you ever had the joy of diving into her post-World War II novel called The Salzburg Connection?

What is buried in a lake high up in the Austrian mountains? Are Bill Mathison and Lynn Conway in way over their heads? Whose side is the mysterious Felix Zauner really on? This is an interesting and important book for all Cold War era buffs, which if you haven't already read you should. Really, what a staggeringly great author!

7:03 AM I must be the Commissioner of Lunacy even to have suggested that we should hold a conference at SEBTS on the church fathers and the origins of the Gospels. I think the event merits further investigation, and here I would ask you to kindly do me a very great favor and let me know who you think would be appropriate speakers at such a conference. I do not mean people who spend their lifetime riding the most frivolous hobby horses but rather scholars in the Gospels who would genuinely be interested in reviewing the external evidence and then telling the rest of us why they (1) do not feel it necessary to take it into account or (2) do not feel that it is necessarily probative. I'm firmly settled here in my own ways on this matter as is obvious to all, but I am most interested and eager to hear from others who disagree with me. Mark Goodacre, I suppose, comes as near an anyone to fulfilling the conditions. However, the highway is still unbuilt, and now that Bernhard Orchard and William Farmer are no longer with us it has expanded even more. Perhaps someone from the Two Gospels School would honor us with their presence? It would be most kind of you to send me your thoughts and suggestions, for I am desperately interested in seeing if anything can (or should) come of this suggestion.

Sunday, November 29

7:44 PM I am not a specialist in the Synoptic Problem. My own view is that both Mark and Q are dispensable. If you are one who advocates the latter but not the former, I am toying with the idea of re-opening a can of worms on campus (yes, again -- I did it twice already in 2000 and 2007). To wit: I would like to see how Markan priorists evaluate the external evidence in favor of Matthean priority. Synoptic criticism for the moment is all for being nice and gentlemanly and public-schooly, with a touch of whimsical Dickensism, or rather (not to insult Dickens) a blend of good-old Obamaism ("can't we all just get together and discuss the matter over a beer in the Rose Garden?"). In a word, to quote the fashion experts, new theories are being worn rather short these years, so, with my usual audacity, I hereby issue an open invitation to self-professed experts in the field to indicate their willingness to risk their digestions on North Carolina fare (sans the wine, I'm afraid) and slip down (in disguise if neccesary) to Wake Forest and let our dear students know why they should prefer the Markan priority hypothesis (with or without Q) over one that takes into account the church fathers. There will, if I am successful, be a follow-up publication of the papers presented, which can do nothing but further the discussion among our eager student bodies, whether at Duke, SEBTS, or elsewhere. I anticipate an all-day Saturday conference with three keynoters, a response given by a neutralist, and a lengthy hard-hitting discussion time.

What say ye? Don't disappoint trash cat.

7:05 PM Tonight my goal is to read 1 Thessalonians through in one sitting. Taken in alternative sips with the second epistle to the Thessalonians, Paul's eschatology gains in intensity of flavor. What a poet, by the way, the man is. Every budding versifier should take note of his love for triads. And then what extraordinary things he's says. Paul will always remain my favorite New Testament letter writer (which is one reason why I love Hebrews so much). I could go on and on.... Je m'excuse d'un bavardage si long.

6:59 PM Nathan called earlier to say that he and Jessie and Nolan were getting on the road to return from Maryland. I hope they'll be able to use the Red Robin gift card Becky and I gave them for Thanksgiving. From Google I see there's a restaurant just north of Richmond on I-95. We expect them home by 9:00 pm. It all depends on how many seconds (thirds, fourths, fifths?) they have on those delectable French fries.

6:45 PM So the Democrats say they are in revolt against the president's new troop surge. It will be all bark and no bite of course -- because they will never pull the funding plug. The concentrated venom of naysay-but-spend is quite obnoxious to observe-- a strange mixture of high-horse-ness and irony, of the kind found only in the American system of so-called "checks-and-balances." I find it very difficult to understand the mentality of a man like Obama who can sit down and spin out an immensely realistic speech about the dangers of overreaching militarism and then have the audacity to use the nation's military academy as a backdrop for caving into his army advisors. After all, he's the Commander-in-Chief. Meanwhile Afghanistan is like a billiard board for literally hundreds of miles at a stretch, and all of it incredibly cultivated to protect the Taliban to the highest degree. (Just ask the Russians or the British before them.) To go on fighting until the Taliban hordes are overthrown and their armies are annihilated will lead, in all probability, to results hardly if at all less catastrophic than a sensible withdrawal today. The sad reality, as Eric Carpenter noted today (Where Are All the War Protesters?), is that the contribution of personal pacifism to politics is for all practical purposes impossible. There can only be the pacifism of individuals. Of course this is all a matter for speculation. What is actually to happen will depend not merely upon the governing class in America but also upon the circumstances affecting or determining that will. My gut response is to say that the president has had his chance (given to him on a royal platter at that) and has blown it. It all sounds pretty gloomy I know, but I remain an ardent advocate of divine sovereignty and interpret the impending backlash as a good thing provided that we have a new discussion of Jeffersonian democracy and the limits of "benevolent interventionism." But, then again, I'm not holding my breath...

Still, I offer Mr. Obama my best wishes and certainly my prayers. But it will take a lot more than 30,000 troops to get the job done. God help us! -- I'm afraid the surge will produce a horror quite unmitigated in recent history.

4:17 PM Becky brought me some homemade pie to enjoy on the front porch as I basked in the glory of the beauty of the hour (pix). How can one's convalescence not progress when one is treated so royally?

I read the entire book of Colossians in one sitting while nursing my back in an old rocker. I have begun sketching out an article dealing with the impossibility of loving the Gospel without loving the church which the Gospel creates. For it seems that Paul was quite intentional when in one place in Colossians he says he is a servant (diakonos) of the Gospel and then two verses later says he is a servant (diakonos) of the church. What an interesting world we live in! -- when men and women can claim to be preachers of the truth and pass out tracks and out-bumper-sticker their neighbor's cars but then have nothing whatsoever to do with fellowshipping with other believers. I see this mentality in Raleigh all the time. We get by with this because we have become very good at justifying ourselves by calling our whims and passions holy names. But Paul was equally devoted to the word of the cross and to the people of the cross -- even half-baked, jejune, and immature Christians. What I have tried to do with my evangelistic friends is to remind them that they mustn't forget that Christ died for the church and that, like Noah's ark, the stench may be intolerable on the inside but the horrors on the outside are far, far worse.

One more thought from Colossians. Did you know that Paul goes out of his way to mention a group of people called the Scythians? Bet you don't know who they were. In the last 3 years I have actually been to the borders of Scythia twice, though the place is now known by another name. Check out Paul in Col. 3:11 and see for yourself. My question: Is the word a term of opprobrium in Paul? And why is it paired with barbarian? And do the two terms overlap? See how my devious mind works (or doesn't work)!

2:59 PM The sun blazes away in unbroken splendor here and there is no wind. Time to spend a few minutes outdoors with the puppies, who must miss their old man terribly. 

2:45 PM So Dr. Jim is accusing people of using too many abstractions. May I say that he falls into the very same trap? And this is not a criticism. The weapons at a good writer's disposal often include ambiguity and hyperbole. Vague abstractions are often utterly deceptive. Politicians are experts at employing them, as when they make the collective-security-military-defense-of-democracy argument. Frankly, Jim, I enjoy the intellectual chaos that often ensues!

2:30 PM I am right now engrossed in a great book about the Great Escape. In fact, the title is just that.

It was published was back in 1950 -- just 6 years after the event it describes took place -- by Paul Brickhill, who was kicked off the escape roster because he was honest enough to admit that he suffered from claustrophobia. I love that. To represent a completely adult, healthy good man, one must be adultly good oneself. I have always known I would be too frightened to be able to travel down a 2 feet by 2 feet collapsible tunnel, all 336 feet of it. 

Incidentally, tunnel construction involved the use of:

4,000 bed boards; 1,370 beading battens; 1,699 blankets; 161 pillow cases; 635 palliasses; 34 chairs; 52 20-man tables; 90 double tier bunks; 1,219 knives; 478 spoons; 30 shovels; 1,000 feet of electric wire; 600 feet of rope; 192 bed covers; 3,424 towels; 1,212 bed bolsters; 10 single tables; 76 benches; 246 water cans; 582 forks; 69 lamps.

And no one was conscripted into slavery to accomplish the feat either. I am a profound admirer of these men, in case you couldn't tell.

2:27 PM The more I read about the Manhattan Declaration, the more I want to shout: Do the work of an evangelist!

1:18 PM Just prayed for the Frank Page family. Don't know the details. Don't need to. 

12:44 PM Don't miss Allan Bevere's weekly roundup of Methodist blogs. How in the world does a man find the time to provide such a service?

Speaking of roundups, I offer a challenge: Will someone please take the time and make the effort to assemble in one place a list of all the New Testament professors in our American and Canadian schools, colleges, and seminaries -- along with their websites? If you need a model, go here. What a help that would be to aspiring North American Neutestamentler! If you do this, I promise you a free copy of one of my books.

12:31 PM A hearty "Amen" to brother Eric's praise for the blog Between the Times. Yes, self-effacing, self-critical Southern Baptists actually do exist. It is a good thing, I think, for denominations from time to time to be knocked off balance by circumstances and then, of all things, to redress the issues through a careful reexamination of the biblical evidence. The Great Commission Resurgence has some giant aspirations, but none so dear as to humbly follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in carrying out Mark 16:15. After all, if a seminary or a denomination can't be all about worldwide church planting, why in the world should it exist?

By the way, just for fun I'll guess that the final 7 blogs to be named by Eric are: Desiring God, The Assembling of the Church, Between Two Worlds, Truth in Love, Reformed Voices, Albert Mohler, and Founders Ministries.

12:02 PM Here's another good letter from The Washington Post: Keeping Ethiopians down. Yes, it's partly about land ownership and private property laws. Meanwhile, Bob Geldof is back in Ethiopia seeking to pump more aid into the nation's disastrous economy. Good for him.

And here's a picture of my dear brother Lloyd, a simple farmer from Virginia, holding an agriculture workshop among the Muslims of Alaba focusing on crop and soil management.

Governments and NGOs aren't the only ones who can do something for the family farmers of Ethiopia! I thank God every day for missionaries like Lloyd who sacrifice their vacation time to distribute seed among the poor and lend a helping hand and some expertise.

11:26 AM Good Sunday morning to you, bloggers and bloggerettes! If you are well, I am well. And indeed I have some very good news for you today: I have not had to use my chariot once so far today. My back seems to be getting stronger by the hour -- which is a good thing too, as my vacation comes to a crashing halt on Tuesday. So, then, what to do? Well, for starters I am reviewing some Latin/English verse a student sent me. He got it from the internet somewhere. The English, I must say, is terrible. Translation it most certainly is not. The Latin and the English are like two ships passing in the night. A real tragedy, I think. The translator was undoubtedly a bespectacled figure carrying books under his arms entitled "Latin and English Verse" and dragging various abbreviations after his (or her) name -- A.B., B.D., B.S., D.D., D.L. -- but the magic alchemy of translation somehow escaped his or her talents. How, may I ask, does one get from "Sit, Christie, rex piissima, tibit Patrique gloria" to "Almighty Father, this accord through Jesus Christ, the Son our Lord"? (The hymn, by the way, is Bede's marvelous Christie, qui, splendor et dies.) Certainly accuracy in translation is a difficult course to pursue successfully, for nothing is harder than to make really good, crystallizing prose interesting. But we can't forget about accuracy!

Today things are very quiet around here. I will alternate between the sweet sleep of the recovering invalid and the protracted struggle with pen and note pad. It will seem odd not going to The Hill tomorrow night for Greek class, but all good things do indeed come to an end. Don't worry about me loafing too much in the meantime, however. I've given a lot of prayerful consideration to what I should teach next time at Bethel Hill, and the need for a basic course in New Testament survey keeps popping up in my mind. We'll see if anyone's interested....

In the meantime I see that Jim West has whipped his stallion into a froth as he gets into high gear again in the monthly Derby of all derbies, and he indeed deserves a lot of credit for maintaining his lead for so many months. DBO is happy to remain the darkest of all dark horses. Still, it is a delight to know that one is surrounded by the greatest collection of internet Thoroughbreds in the world.

This week my existence will be somewhat restless and uncertain. If I can somehow manage to keep my back from going out again there is a slim chance that we might attend the annual Christmas concert at SEBTS this Friday evening featuring a performance by the Northeast Piedmont Chorale, to which Becky and I once belonged (in our pre-Ethiopia days).

Have you looked outdoors yet today? It is a fall day in the Piedmont of Virginia, but summer lingers and lingers deliciously. The beauty of this day is really fabulous, and I have threatened the dogs that I might take them for a short walk just so that I can get outdoors again.

Well, the Lord bless you real good wherever you find yourself this Sunday, and may your week be one that benefits the kingdom of King Jesus!  

Saturday, November 28

3:04 PM Only dumpster-divers like Nate and me would enjoy this post. I think Frayda said it best:

If something is in the trash on the curb, in most people's opinion, it is up for grabs.

2:54 PM Pat McCullough notes an opportunity to write dictionary articles for a new publication called Dictionary of the Bible and Western Culture. Several entries fairly beg to be written by the Big Bamboola of Biblioblogging, Jim West himself, including (but not necessarily limited to):

  • Evil (Jim's Leitmotiv)

  • Judgement (But please correct the British spelling, will you?)

  • Let the Dead Bury Their Dead (Love that "in your face" language)

  • Mess of pottage (which Jim would never trade for anything)

  • Old men shall dream dreams (I assume that Jim qualifies as an old man)

  • Sin will find you out (and Jim will tell the world about it)

  • Stoning (of the non-hashish sort, I reckon)

  • Thou art the man (That's you, Jaime!)

  • Troubling the waters (That's why you're #1)

  • Turn the Other Cheek (Jim is a master at doing this -- ha!)

  • Voice of the turtle (Say what?)

  • Weeping and gnashing of teeth (the fate of every criminal ever exposed by Jim)

  • Worm that does not die (in multos annos, Jimbo!)

Please, Jim, if you will, save "Bodysurfing the Sea of Galilee" (which I've actually done) for me. I could desperately use the income.

Oh wait! That entry isn't even listed. What kind of a lousy dictionary is this anyway?

2:28 PM The German news magazine Stern is running a series of photos on climate change and especially the problem of water shortages worldwide. Acquiring potable drinking water is a  perpetual problem in the Horn of Africa, where Becky and I work. Perhaps this is why I was struck most deeply by this picture:

The problem in Ethiopia is not so much a shortage of water resources (there is plenty of rain water, as well as 14 major river systems). The problem is one of intelligently harvesting the water sources that already exist. Becky and I can't do everything, but we can see to it that our clinic in Galana has a year-round source of healthy drinking water drawing on the rain harvesting system that is being installed even as I type these words. Praise God for all of you who helped to make this project a reality. The enormity of the suffering is really unfathomable, but God is at work in ever so small ways to bring some relief to the suffering thousands of Burjis and Gujis.

1:10 PM I love Jeff Huber. He has developed to a supreme degree that greatest quality of all writing -- simplicity. It's been fun and disturbing -- all at once -- to read his latest essay (Let Them Eat Patty Cake), which is a reminder that stony and obedient loyalty to militarism and vested interests seems to be the necessary adjunct of a life time of perfunctory hard work and imaginative-less work. So you see that I'm still a revolutionary but practical enough to admit that the use of the word "victory" is little more than intellectual and moral subservience to propaganda. Well done, Jeff, well done.

12:42 PM Speaking of Hebrew, beware of those bad Semitic tattoos. Moreover, guys and gals, do try and remember that Hebrew words are gender specific.

P.S. Aren't you glad you visit DBO? My advice is worth about a million. I can already sense the calming effect this post has had on you.

12:05 PM In calm, collected, and dispassionate retrospect, I feel quite sure that the study of rhetoric should have been included in my New Testament courses long before it was. I think Old Testament scholars were more emotionally disposed to treat these topics as a matter of course, so I am not at all surprised to see that a wonderful website exists that is devoted to the study of the Old Testament from a very scientific point of view. Why, it even takes the rhetorical level of language as a significant level of language for receptors -- a point I have been trying to make with my own students for at least 10 years now. There is even a splendid section devoted to stylistics, and if you are at all interested in such matters I do hope you will look at it. To whet your appetite:

La stylistique des textes vétérotestamentaires est une étude souvent négligée./30 Cependant elle est le fondement de plusieurs approches exégétiques. Comme nous le verrons, elle est nécessaire à l'analyse de genre, et à "la critique littéraire" dans le sens de l'analyse des sources, comme étude préalable. Elle partage certains de ses intérêts avec la critique rhétorique, et aurait pu être considérée en même temps qu'elle, mais la stylistique s'intéresse plus que la critique rhétorique aux questions esthétiques. Toutefois, la stylistique est une approche de la Bible plus sujette à des erreurs de compréhension dues à la différence culturelle et linguistique qui sépare l'exégète du texte; nos conclusions doivent donc être circonspectes.

The author is really very pleasant and also very determined. Thinks our exegesis should be text-based, and all that. To this notion I acquiesce eagerly. In fact, if my own students do not include a section in their term papers on the rhetoric of their passage, their contributions are relegated immediately to File 13.

12:05 PM If this blog post isn't very coherent you can attribute it to my state of mental vacuity -- the result of too much writing this morning, plus a dose of valium to relieve my back spasms. Still, I can't help myself and simply must post a few thoughts here. My devotions/Bible study today brought me to this wonderful statement of how the household of Onesiphorus often "refreshed" Paul (2 Tim. 1:16). The idea is that "he took care of all my needs and wasn't ashamed that I was a prisoner." Today I'm reminded of the many in Ethiopia who have extended to Becky and me their hearts and their homes. I offer a prayer of praise on your behalf this very minute. Thank you for loving Becky and me. Thank you for accepting us with all of our faults and foibles. Thank you for sacrificing to make us feel so welcome and comfortable. Thank you!

I offer no captions to these pictures for even a thousand words would be too few even to begin to describe who these saints are and what they mean to us. They are our family, and as soon as Becky is feeling splendidly again (Lord willing, next spring) we will take two weeks to visit them, just Becky and me, to enjoy their lavish fellowship once again, leaving behind the mountains of work that need to be scaled. As you ponder these pictures, think of the Body of Christ worldwide, the haunting feeling that these are the people with whom we will be spending an eternity without the slightest touch of separation of any kind. What bravado for me to post these photos, thinking that you might actually enjoy them. Well, I actually hope you do enjoy them! Speaking completely unbiasedly, there are no more beautiful people on the face of this earth than the Ethiopians. If only you could know them as we do.

Oh, one more thing. Don't let anyone tell you that missions is about strategy and planning and missions courses and conferences. Missions is about one thing and one thing only: People. Love people, and God will open a mission field so broad for you that it will boggle your mind.

On to the photos....

10:30 AM A salient reminder to all of my doctoral students:

I've said it time and again. Your doctoral studies can and should be the best, not the worst, years of your life. And remember: I pray for you constantly.

10:18 AM Here's an example of what I mean by "radical" (i.e., returning to the radix, the root of the matter): In Afghanistan and at home, we're being driven off a cliff. An awesome post. I do have to stipulate, however, that I don't care too much personally whether the Democrats are mostly to blame for the fiasco. I'm also not convinced it's too late to stop the madness. The Taliban, of course, are promising a "bed of thorns," but that won't stop our congressional war lovers from widening the conflict. And I thought the president was serious about health care reform.

9:44 AM I woke up this morning with a severe attack of felicity from being able to shuffle about without my wheelchair for the first time in several days. The prednisone seems to be working as effectively as the physicians predicted. The whole unpleasant episode began with a cough from a chest cold that I picked up who knows where. My susceptibility to chest problems is probably due in part to a tendency toward bronchitis as a child and may well have been exacerbated by sitting in countless seminars filled with strong pipe smoke in Basel (from which, alas, there was no possibility of escape; even opening a window was streng verboten). Somehow I managed to return home from my sojourn in the city along the Rhine with both my lungs and my orthodoxy still intact.

Right now Becky is planning on meeting up with Liz and the boys. They're going "mall-ing" up in Lynchburg today, and it is a pleasant day indeed for such an avocation. Later today I will return to work on my Ungeheuer (no word better describes my latest book project, Godworld) but in the meantime I've been diving into the deep waters of the book of Proverbs, prying open its oysters and extracting pearls of wisdom that so richly mature there. I've jotted these down so far:

  • Even while laughing a heart can ache.

  • Better to have a dish of vegetables where there is love than juicy steaks where there is hate.

  • Grandchildren are the crown of grandparents.

  • A person's anxiety will weigh him down, but an encouraging word makes him joyful.

  • Delayed hope makes one sick at heart, but a fulfilled longing is a tree of life.

  • Silver hair is a beautiful crown found in a righteous life.

Thinking about wisdom this morning, my thoughts and prayers turn also to my students who are laboring diligently this week to finish their term papers for my classes. The whole purpose of public education is to stimulate intellectual curiosity and to equip students with the power of independent judgement. The clear and single purpose of teaching the biblical languages is to get students into the text itself. Will an irresistible tide of exultation now sweep through the halls of the campus with loud hosannas from those who faithfully recite their paradigms and principal parts? Of course not. Language study is both rigorous and humiliating. So to all of my students who are writhing over their papers this Thanksgiving break I say: Do the very best you can, for by making the effort to excel you have already scored a great intangible victory for your cause. I venture to say that the ultimate result of your much laborious periphrasis is an unconscious intellectual satisfaction. And that's nothing to sneeze (or cough) at.



Friday, November 27

7:32 PM Jim West's stimulating and provocative remarks compel me to reflect a little more deeply on the current state of the academy and on the condition of my own faith and belief. Jim argues cogently for a distinction between religion (which is a reflection of one's own consciousness and circumstances) and Christian faith (which is concerned primarily with the promulgation of truth). One either sees life predicated primarily in terms of reason or revelation; hence we have university departments of religion on the one hand, and confessional institutions (such as seminaries) on the other. The two trends have had a long career, but their vogue is, I hope, coming to an end, and one day they will be tucked harmlessly away in the museum of post-Christian fantasies. The opposition between reason and revelation can be reduced to a simple axiom: reason always works from the bottom up, while revelation always works from the top down. If I could scarcely find employment in a "secular" institution's department of New Testament, it may be owing to the simple fact that I begin with revelation as my starting point. Otherwise I think I could manage to teach Greek or exegesis or hermeneutics with the best of them. Likewise, when we invite non-conservative speakers to lecture at SEBTS (Stanley Hauerwas for one), nobody questions his zeal for religious knowledge. You see, it is all a matter of one's religious presuppositions. And it is an indisputable fact today that presuppositional-less exegesis is an utter impossibility. I have my presuppositions, Stanley has his, and never the twain shall meet. What can happen, however, and sometimes does happen at SBL or IBR or even ETS, is that biblical scholars from different backgrounds and convictions learn to speak to rather than past each other. And why should this not happen? To the degree that faith is an obvious part of the religious arsenal and to the degree that reason is bound up with the revelation of God through Jesus Christ, the conflict between faith and reason need not end up as a total breach. As Mark Noll used to say, today it is no longer a question of reason versus faith but of a reasonable faith versus a faithless reason. That is to say, I for one have never rejected higher critical methodologies per se simply because many of them originated from a bottom-up rational. I have even co-edited two books (New Testament Criticism and Interpretation and Interpreting the New Testament) that try to tackle head on this ascent motif and its expression, and perhaps even its origin. Let there be no confusion here: I am not the least interested in engaging in polemics or apologetics against my scholarly peers. I do not wish to argue that because I begin with with a top-down approach my conclusions are necessarily correct. Take the case of the Synoptic Problem: If we look at my proposed solution and compare it to that, say, of the Oxford Hypothesis, we will find that the differences have nothing to do with my views about inspiration but are rather bound up with my willingness to take into serious account the religious authorities of the first four centuries (the so-called external evidence). Quite obviously we are all trying to solve the same problem -- to get hold of the facts and, in the face of the data, construct a plausible hypothesis. Here is where the split occurs: I take into account the writings of the church fathers, while others do not. Or take another example --  my published defense of the Paulinity of the admirable confession of faith in the second chapter of Philippians. Since I have often elaborated on the theme of powerlessness in Pauline thinking (see my Basel dissertation, Paul, Apostle of Weakness), I won't go into this any further.

To put it bluntly, group think of any kind is anathema to the scholarly world. Sadly, as Jim points out, it is as endemic in both the academy and the seminary as is malaria in Alaba, Ethiopia (where I managed to acquire the disease). This leaves us totally uncertain as to how to discover and build faith. But if a cow can chew her cud, certainly biblical scholars of every stripe can learn to meditate on and deliberately think through the consensus opinio on every subject and, courage well in hand, use various means of demonstration to show that a rapprochement between faith and reason is possible.

12:39 PM Good for Basel, my erstwhile home away from home, for banning an idiotic Muslim-bashing poster. The Swiss have always been xenophobic, but this steps way over line of basic human decency and the Gemuetlichkeit for which the Swiss have always been famous.

12:16 PM One of my favorite bloggers has begun a new series called "My Ten Favorite Blogs." Here's his opening salvo.

11:55 AM The SBL conference is now over. From what I have read there were no startling conclusions, of any kind, but a lot of interesting things were said, and there were occasions for people to interact. In point of fact I doubt whether the results will be very earth-shattering in the context of modern biblical scholarship. Q will keep on Q-ing, verbal aspect will continue to be debated -- with no end in sight -- younger scholars will continue, undoubtedly, to supply fruitful suggestions (while adding a line or two to their CVs). From a business point of view I'm sure the conference helped the struggling NOLA economy, and the publishers are no doubt glad that their books were snatched away with rapturesque celerity. From my experience at these conferences, occasionally one finds a unique thinker whose knowledge in many fields permits them to strike at the joints between the various academic disciplines -- exegesis, biblical theology, philosophy, linguistics -- and so to penetrate to the core of the living reality in ways in which the specialist can never do. This is, in fact, what I should like to be able to do someday -- become a welder of the joints between the separate armor-plates of organized knowledge. In this regard, one scholar who interests me very much is Udo Schnelle, though I have read only a few of his writings. Il est un travail préoccupant qui m'a render très paresseux envers mes autres devoirs!

P.S. For a slightly different perspective, read April DeConick's Open Letter about SBL.

Thursday, November 26

5:11 PM Oh my, but this is good: Unforced Error. Perhaps the quote of quotes is this one:

The war in Afghanistan is as necessary as removing the prostate gland of a healthy 12-year old boy. 

At one point I demur, however. The author's tennis analogy breaks down, as do most analogies about the Afghan War, on the fact that the U.S. and the Taliban are playing two different games on very different playing fields. The definition of "victory," consequently, will also differ dramatically.

4:58 PM News flash! Here are the world's fattest countries. I bet Korea is the world's leanest nation. It took me several trips there before I noticed one single overweight person. It's the food, I tell you. If Americans ate nothing but Korean cuisine we'd be the thinnest nation on earth. Kimchi? Delicious. Bulgogi? The best? Kaejigogi? Scrumptious (even though it's dog meat). Yes, I know the smells are pungent, but if we all ate kimchi, nobody would notice the halitosis.

Speaking of obesity, people are getting fatter in Ethiopia of all places. Especially in the capital. The difference there is that fat is a sign of success and well-being.

4:10 PM The last few days have been kind of a fantasy for me, at once comical and farcical, mind-numbing and reflective. The days have made me feel almost posthumous and, at the same time, more determined than ever to come to grips with my current physical limitations. The doctors have told me that I should be back to normal in a couple of weeks, and I have good hopes that if I persist in following their orders I may get the full use of my back again. Something very similar to this happened to me once in southern Ethiopia. Several years ago we were in Burji when, as a result of breathing dust for days on end, I developed a hacking cough which in turn threw my back out completely. I was confined to my pallet for days on end. When the cough abated, so did the muscle spasms in my lower back. I assume that the same thing will happen this time around. The deplorable thing is that farm work goes on even when one is indisposed, and my current contribution to everyday operations is, sadly, nil.

News this Thanksgiving Day is otherwise unexciting. Nate and Jess are celebrating the occasion with her family, Becky is sewing another dress, and I'm getting a good deal of recreational reading done. I have also taken some definitive steps in mapping out my fourth semester Greek course, which I will teach next semester. The class will focus on Greek linguistics, a subject about which I still don't know enough. There is no hope of interpreting the text logically and rationally without linguistics. One would think that biblical language teachers would be the first to extol the wonders of the field of linguistics, but it is obvious that there remains a real taboo about it. Only a few specialists seem to be willing to teach it. The rest of us remain perfectly ignorant of it contributions. Most of us don't want to think this way about language because it would spoil our sermonizing ("You mean that dynamis has nothing to do with dynamite after all?"). Alas, the short-term fun all this etymologizing provides outweighs the long-term miseries that inevitable follow.

I do hope that you and your family are enjoying this national holiday. I think it is good to honor our nation's forebears, though I am becoming more and convinced that it is completely useless to work in the field of politics to accomplish any kind of permanent social change -- first, because political power can achieve very little, and second, the little that is achieved is merely a diversion of evil into slightly different channels. The archist attitude of the sixteenth century Anabaptists (or of the early church, for that matter) is becoming less and less acceptable in a day of heady optimism about the human race. My sense is that religious people who think they can go into politics to change the world are almost always transformed by the world. I'd much rather stay with the cross and the life-changing power of scandalous love. Living out the kingdom ethics of Eph. 5:1-2 might well accomplish more than all of our declarations (pontifications?) put together.

Well, it's back to reading the mother of all World World II escape stories -- the escape of 3 British officers from a German POW camp through a wooden horse of all things. Concurrently I'm conniving and scheming of ways to achieve freedom from my wheelchair captivity.

Per ardua ad aspera

(The motto of the Royal Air Force -- "Through adversity to the stars.")

8:22 AM Thought you might enjoy this excerpt from an email Becky sent out this morning:

Thanks for your prayers & advice.  We're already doing all the nursing packs, rubs, resting, positioning, muscle relaxants, etc....this is such a severe case, nothing's touching it.  But I think today he will turn around.  He's on 40 mg Prednisone...that's a good strong dose of anti-inflammatory.  So we expect his bronchitis/cough to leave today, and the back will recover after that.   It's quite an experience to see such a strong man become crippled overnight.   We've had some laughing spells, thinking of what we must look like from Heaven, taking care of each other with both our backs out :)   God knows, and we love Him!  I'm sure glad we can trust His character!

Hope you have a wonderful day!

Happy Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, November 25

8:14 AM We're off to UNC Hospital again. No, Becky's fine. It's my turn. When I looked in the mirror this morning I saw an 80 year old, stooped over in pain. B thinks it's possibly pneumonia, my back situation being a side effect. Guess we'll find out today. You should see the two of us trying to care for each other!

Tuesday, November 24

8:29 PM Thanksgiving dinner. Venison, salmon, turkey. Sang a hymn Becky wrote for the occasion. Thankful for a goofy, Christ-centered family.

10:26 AM The "sainting" of Father Damien, "hero" of Molokai's leper colony, continues to interest me. Participants in Western culture need heroes no less than the ancient Greeks needed demi-gods. You would think that we might find Jesus sufficient, but no -- we are caught up in the same giddy trend. We rush forward to applaud the rich and famous who happen to "receive Christ" or, conversely, to condemn those who have turned their backs on their evangelical upbringing (Frankie Schaeffer comes to mind). The whole business of propping up our ephemeral heroes is hopelessly confused. When I was Jesus-freaking in Hawaii our demi-god was "The Chaplain of Waikiki Beach" -- tall, dark, handsome, even garnered a brief appearance in the movie Tora, Tora, Tora. Who could blame us? If the secular media could have its heroes (karate-chopping David Carradine, for example), why couldn't we have ours?

What really surprises me about this aspect of our hero-worship is that it is all so unconscious. How amazing that in an era of stiff-necked biblicism ("There is absolutely no biblical justification for declaring anyone a 'Saint!'") evangelicals should abandon themselves to the same excesses. Look at us -- raving over our evangelical superstars the way the world raves about its Oscar awardees. Jim West is absolutely correct when he says that biblical scholars are not, by and large, standoffish prima donnas -- quite the contrary! Contrast that with our pulpit pedestals and sermonic stars, our adulation of TV preachers, our need for excitement and applause in church. I dare say Father Damien would have yawned at all the media attention, might even have thought the hooplala exploitative. Maybe his real legacy is to remember this:

Stardom is vapid -- even in an era of the spectacle.

8:17 AM Nice serendipity: Driving to Greek class last night I listened to Chuck Swindoll on BBN. He was preaching from 1 John 2:1-6. This text is no less than a fiery challenge to all who have ears to hear, to all who are willing to rethink their lifestyles. The study of love and its ethics of obedience remains very much on my personal agenda, and I have not yet slaked my thirst for the brilliant analysis offered by John. Love, for John, is the transference of one's loyalties from the present kingdom of man to the coming kingdom of God. Love binds us to Jesus Christ and then thrusts out into the world for whom Christ died, back into the darkness, back into real relationships with real pain. Love is not fully Christian unless it is love for the world. It was this notion that compelled me to write The Jesus Paradigm, for it is this paradigm of self-abnegation that stands over against the church's misplaced love for itself. We have in the New Testament an ethics of worldly involvement as opposed to our "we're better than you" mentality. Love God. Love one another. Love the world. The three loves. And it is the last one that I failed to practice for so many years.

8:12 AM Kudos to Jim West for adding captions to his excellent photos of SBL.

8:10 AM Seumas Milne has penned a piece that you might want to look at, because chances are you won't be seeing the topic discussed elsewhere: We can't buy peace in Afghanistan. The rubber meets the road here:

Trying the same trick in Afghanistan will certainly escalate conflict between Afghans, fund new warlords and boost corruption still further. At best, it will buy a breathing space to create the political cover for a negotiated US and Nato withdrawal. But any idea that renting tribal leaders will buy peace in Afghanistan is a pipedream.

8:02 AM You should see Becky and me. Too old geezers who can hardly move. Bradford Hall has become a nursing home. As we thought about this yesterday we laughed so hard I thought my sides were going to burst.

Monday, November 23

1:38 PM Today I'm re-reading, with much pleasure and profit, At Dawn We Slept. These comments on history are often as interesting as the history itself, because they permit one to look at an event from another angle. I always enjoy World War II books, but there are very few of them that are particularly good. Sink the Bismarck is a gigantic success, as is The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. I used to enjoy Churchill's series on the Second World War but now find him too much of a controversial apologist for war. In case you should have nothing better to do, I might suggest that you read At Dawn We Slept -- a well-written book and a reminder that even the most vigilant government offices are populated by frail and fallible human beings.

12:55 PM Bethel Hill Greek students! If your notions of Greek are still simmering, be prepared to bring them to a full boil tonight at 7:00 sharp. That's when your final exam begins. You'll translate 2 verses from 1 John 1:5 - 2:14, parse the verbs, and then do as much of the extra credit English-Greek sentence as you can. If all goes well, I expect everyone to get over 100 on this test. And yes, I'm bringing lots of my books to pass out during the 110 Award Extravaganza afterwards. I do hope you will be able to nail down your passages in 1 John before class begins. Like a mother hen brooding over her chicks, I am anxious to see you get out on your own.

12:45 PM A tip of my Cajun kepi to Jim West, who is doing a great job of posting photos of the SBL meeting. But a question bedevils me: Exactly who are all these people? Captions, Jim, captions!

Sunday, November 22

5:14 PM I see that yet another declaration has been issued (semi-officially) by church leaders of all stripes. This one deals with the grave social ills that plague our nation (abortion particularly). As a rule of thumb, I don't see that very much good is done by writing all these words. Abortion will continue as it has for decades. Now, abortion is horrible in the extreme. But it is not by proclaiming this fact in a loud voice that this particular perversion of God's order will be stopped or that sinful human beings will stop acting like sinful human beings. Our behavior as humans is immensely old and tied up with habits of thought and action that no manifesto or declaration can ever hope to reverse. It is not very helpful to treat smallpox simply by cutting out the individual pustules and suturing up the wounds. The Christian is not only called to speak truth but to do good, and to fail in the latter is to automatically fail in the former.

5:10 PM This morning Becky and I had the joy and honor of representing the Ethiopian church to the saints at Spring Lake Baptist Church. The church is having its annual "Missions Month." Neither Becky nor I were feeling 100 percent, far from it in fact, but it would been a monster to have cancelled our speaking engagement. We were glad to have had this opportunity of sharing the Lord's glory in that part of the world while challenging the American church to move beyond easy Christianity. If fact, I'd say if it's easy, it's not Christianity. And if it's Christianity, then it's not easy. My text for the morning, Matt. 9:35-38, is a coal of fire. It challenges our lack of involvement in the Lord's work. It speaks to our laziness while the world all around us is in such terrible condition. The lost sheep are crying out for help, but will go to them? The Christian who opts out of all service to the world and all responsibility in the church is being nothing less than blasphemous. It's like playing Bach's concertos for violin on a fiddle made out of packing crates and string. Lots of things in today's text make me shudder, and I must say it's quite preposterous of me to teach the passage without myself begging the Lord of the harvest to send forth more workers. Once again I am driven to my knees. What a wonderful God we serve! What a precious Gospel He has entrusted to us! We are members of God's family, and we have no right to claim exclusive membership!

These, then, were the twin objectives of our talks today: Jesus' own example of being the Master Missionary, and our responsibility to follow in His footsteps. I hope our messages were completely grounded in the Word of God, and therefore healthy, stimulating, and beneficial. My thanks to Keith and Lisa Jones for being such great hosts.

Nice serendipity: We passed Nate and Jess going the other way in Person County. They were delivering a big load of hay to someone. Oh to be young again! To be able to pick up bales without hurting. Why, I was doing this just last week! Poor, pitiful me -- any diminution of that treasure we call health seems an appalling hardship.

About our plans for the week (it's my vacation): Tuesday night we are having a Thanksgiving dinner with the Blacks and Rondeaus here at The Hall. I am hoping to to get some progress made on my latest erg. I seem at last to have something significant crystallizing in my mind -- something that allows itself to be written. As for my silly back -- quien sabe? It is fatally hard for me to consider going to a chiropractor (I know people who swear by their chiropractor and others who swear at them). I am venturing to hope that the Lord will see it healed "all by itself." Oddly enough, as we were driving home this afternoon Becky told me that her back was hurting her too (sympathy pains, I think the psychologist calls this). So we shall both suffer together this week.


Saturday, November 21

5:08 PM Thanking God for a great orientation today. A few pix:

Please offer up a prayer for me if you will. My coughing has thrown my back completely out. Can't stand up straight, can't hardly walk. And the cough is persistent. I'm on antibiotics and taking pain meds. Sure be glad when this is over. If I can just make it through tomorrow....

Becky is doing GREAT!

7:50 AM Yippie! We now know what Jesus looked like. How, you ask? The shroud is real, the shroud is real!

7:33 AM Let's not forget IBR. Karyn Traphagen reports on Tremper Longman's talk "Of the Making of Commentaries There Is No End: The Past, Present, and Future of a Genre" here

Friday, November 20

9:56 PM We had a very special treat tonight. Our good friend Rachael from the seminary dropped by and brought us a delicious supper of homemade chili and cornbread. Then she proceeded to spoil Becky with a manicure.

What a great way to top off the day. Tomorrow is orientation #1 at Bethel Hill. Becky will cover spiritual preparation, logistics, and personal ministries, then I'll give a general introduction to the nation of Ethiopia -- history, geography, economics, demographics, religion, health, and social issues.  Lots of prayer time too. Right now Becky Lynn still feels great. I'm asking the Lord to give her a great day tomorrow.

By the way, here's a little quiz I'll be starting off with. Want to try your hand at it?

What Do You Know About Ethiopia?

1. Ancient Ethiopia was known as:

a) Edom

b) Arabia

c) Abyssinia

2. The word “Ethiopia” comes from which language?

a) Syriac

b) Greek

c) Arabic

3. What object is said to rest in Axum, Ethiopia?

a) The ark of the covenant

b) Noah’s ark

c) The arch of Titus

4. Ethiopia was colonized by which European power?

a) England

b) France

c) Italy

d) None of the above

5. The Battle of Adwa in 1896 was

a) an Ethiopian victory

b) an Italian victory

c) a draw

6. Emperor Haile Selassie ruled Ethiopia from 1930 to

a) 1945

b) 1950

c) 1974

7. The Marxists ruled Ethiopia from 1976 to

a) 1980

b) 1985

c) 1991

8. Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, is

a) about 1,000 years old

b) about 500 years old

c) about 100 years old

9. The current Prime Minister of Ethiopia is

a) Sinteyu

b) Hossein

c) Meles

10. Ethiopia has the ____________ largest population in Africa.

a) first

b) second

c) third

11. Ethiopia is twice the size of which U.S. state?

a) Vermont

b) California

c) Texas

12. Ethiopia has how many different ethnic groups?

a) 15

b) 83

c) 154

13. Ethiopia is the birthplace of

a) sugar

b) coffee

c) tea

14. Ethiopia is primarily

a) mountainous

b) lowlands

c) rain forest

15. In Ethiopia, Protestants comprise about what percentage of the population?

a) 5

b) 18

c) 35

16. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is strongest in ____________ Ethiopia.

a) northern

b) central

c) southern

17. How many months does Ethiopia have?

a) 11

b) 12

c) 13

18. In Ethiopia, the ninth hour is

a) 9 o’clock

b) 3 o’clock

c) 12 o’clock

19. The currency in Ethiopia is called the

a) lira

b) drachma

c) birr

20. Which nation does not border Ethiopia?

a) Sudan

b) Djibouti

c) Egypt

5:33 PM Random thoughts at SBL.

4:55 PM Let the games begin!

All the theory unveiling and document hypothecating at SBL, that is.

Of course, most SBL presentations are beds of Procrustes, to which the people must be stretched or surgically abbreviated. Problems of biblical interpretation are, alas, too complex to be solved in one weekend, but that doesn't stop scholars from having a jolly good time, nor should it.

As long as no large-scale lunacies are forthcoming from this year's party, I suppose we need not worry too much about all the goings-on in New Orleans.

Besides, the food must be terrific.

I shall be keeping up with the festivities at Dr. Jim's site.  

11:42 AM May I share with you just one of the dozens of beautiful emails Becky has received?

I was thinking today that we are all one cell division away from cancer, one breath away from eternity, and one glimpse away from glory.  He knows our pain and sees our tears.  I have been forever grateful for the simplicity of His love.  And if nothing can separate us from His love, then our perception of distance from Him is merely that, our perception.  The Holy Spirit within us, our Comforter, will speak when we cannot and see what we cannot see.  Never fear, my friend, for He knows.  God bless and keep you. 

Isn't that something? Again, Becky is still almost pain free. I consider this a direct miracle from the hand of God. But I haven't stopped praisin' or prayin'!

11:34 AM Quote of the day:

I still remember his standing in his NT Greek classes and holding up the Greek NT and saying: "Gentlemen, this is the New Testament. If you don't read this, you don't read the New Testament!" Though he was a patient and caring teacher, he was demanding as well. He told us that he had reduced the Greek grammar that must be memorized to an irreducible minimum but that the verb and noun endings simply must be mastered. And he said: "Now Gentlemen, if you don't learn your Greek endings, not even the grace of God will save you on test day!" Under his influence, I threw away my English translations and read only the Greek New Testament.

Read Haunted by Hesed.

11:20 AM Spiros Zodhiates: RIP.

As a teenager in Hawaii I used to listen to brother Zodhiates on the radio, and it was he who first piqued my interest in studying New Testament Greek. I thank God for his ministry to the church and especially in the world of missions. He was indeed a Great Commission Christian.

Thursday, November 19

10:17 PM Becky's sound asleep. When I prayed with her tonight she was mercifully still pain-free. My cough is keeping me awake. What to do? Rummage through the halls of my memory. Here's our Nathan as a newborn.

Looks a lot like Nolie, eh? What a blessing to have Nolan and his parents living on the farm with us. I'm miserable because I'm not in any condition to help Nate with the farm chores. Hopefully after another day of rest I'm be back to my old self. Nathan needs the help and I need the exercise!

Signing off....

10:06 PM Breaking news! Just received a photo from Ray and Lauralee Lindholm of their new guest house in Addis. 2010 team members, this will be our home base while we are in the capital. It's located only a few doors down the street from the old facility. I'm praising God for providing this home for us to stay in during our visits to Utopia.

P.S. For you returning team members, we will be asking you to read Lauralee's recently published book Out of Darkness, Into Light. We'll provide copies for you at our orientation. It is a wonderful book that tells the story of the Lindholms' work among the Orthodox of Ethiopia. This is Lauralee's first book but I certainly hope not her last. 

9:31 PM What's up with yellow book covers anyway?

9:16 PM If you live in the Big D you might want to check out this Saturday night's lecture by Peter Kreeft on "Lewis, Tolkien, and the Culture War." Venue: Highland Park Presbyterian Church. Details here

9:02 PM Over at The Christian Century, Adam McHugh asks Can introverts lead? Of course they can. Leadership is a matter of character, not personality type.

Here's one takeaway from this fine essay:

Those of us who are introverts should not try to be extroverts or contort ourselves in ways our personalities are not able to go. While we seek to grow as leaders and as people, we need to be committed to remaining true, because one of the greatest gifts we can offer others is leading as ourselves. People desperately want to know that it's possible to live, act and work as they are, and introverted leaders who model authenticity will give others freedom to be themselves.

8:32 PM Guess what I'm working on? A new course proposal for a team-taught class on the Septuagint. It'll be taught by the ultimate odd couple: Abbott (me) and Costello (Bob Cole).

It's got to pass through several committees, but who knows -- maybe as early as fall 2010 we can offer it. Wouldn't that be fun? If you are a SEBTS student, let me know if you might be interested in such a course offering; it might help us make our case.

8:25 PM "Deplorable" and "shameful." You're absolutely right, Mr. Huckabee. Thank you, sir, for acting like a true Christian.

6:29 PM For your viewing pleasure, a Thursday evening trifecta:

1) Nolan just paid us a visit. He's getting huskier by the day. I have never seen a happier baby. Take that back: his daddy was like that too. Thanks, Nate and Jess, for the visit!

2) Got this in the mail today. Even signed by the author. Thanks, Nick!

3) The best news of all? Becky is painless! She is doing absolutely fantastic. Thank you God, and thank all of you for your fervent prayers of intercession. This is one grateful husband, let me tell you.

5:30 PM Yesterday Frank Stasio of WUNC interviewed Omid Safi, professor of Islamic Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill. His new book is called Memories of Muhammad: Why the Prophet Matters. I listened to the interview and I plan on buying the book, as should everyone who is interested in sharing their faith with Muslims. The interview contained a few surprises. Did you know that only 20 percent of Muslims are Arabs? Did you know that the majority of Muslims live east of India? Did you know that belief in the ascension of Mohammed is a main doctrine in Islam?

To listen to the interview with Professor Safi, go here. Then remember these words:

This is how God loved the world. He gave His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him might not perish but have life everlasting. For God didn't send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

God loves this world. Do you? Do I? Are we willing to give up everything to take the Good News to it?

5:13 PM Just received this money-grubbing email:

Dear Dave,

The battle for our freedoms is raging. Indeed, our very right to speak our minds and practice our beliefs hangs in the balance. And it will take the dedication of each and every one of us to pull through these trying times with our freedoms intact.

Won't you help us tip the scales for justice and freedom?

Click here to give an online donation today.

Ronald Reagan was right when he said that "If we lose freedom here, there's no place to escape to."
If we lose freedom here in America, there really will be no place to escape to.

No place to escape to? Ridiculous. Folks, I don't need this kind of "freedom." The kingdom doesn't need "freedom" either. Since when has freedom become the sine qua non of living? Has Lady Liberty become the latest goddess in the pantheon of nations? Luther was correct when he wrote:

Ein Christenmensch ist ein freier Herr über alle Dinge und niemand untertan. Ein Christenmensch ist ein dienstbarer Knecht aller Dinge und jedermann untertan.

2:32 PM Peter Carey thanks The Atlantic for taking on the pro$perity preacher$. I can't help but think of the Ethiopian church. They wear scars, we wear medals. Of course, we have our reasons. "The lack of money is the root of all evil" is just one of them. "If you just have faith, God will heal you" is another.

Paul teaches that suffering is the rule, not the exception, of Christian living. Just read 1 Thess. 3:1-5. Or Phil. 1:29.

I'll go with Paul on this one.

2:23 PM Tweet? Tweckle? Twompliment? Whatever you call it, I say "Yes, Yes, Yes!" Oh, and don't forget the Twitpix at SBL either. I'm counting on you Dr. Jim!

1:50 PM I applaud any student who is willing to translate the Old Testament from the Hebrew and then offer his/her renderings on the chopping block for the input of others. Adam Darnell has done just that, and I urge you to take a look at his translation and offer your own suggestions/questions. I know he'd be delighted and encouraged to hear from you.

12:40 PM Becky just had her shot and has taken her pain meds. She will rest/nap for the rest of the afternoon. This is perhaps a good time to say thank you for taking all the time to write to Becky. It is really very kind of you.

May I tell you a brief story?

There is a well-known tale of a church in London that was badly damaged during an air raid in World War II. In restoring it somebody found a statue of Christ that had been shattered to pieces. When it had been put back together again, it was discovered that both hands were missing. There the statue stood -- incomplete and pitiful -- until someone put a sign underneath it with these words:

Christ has no hands but our hands to do His work today.

Those 12 words are, I suppose, a good summary of Bec and me. As long as we feel we can "do good to all people, and especially to those of the household of God" (Gal. 6:10), we are willing to postpone our heavenly home-going for as long as the hands-less Jesus ordains.

Paul tells the Thessalonians to "give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thee. 5:18). This is not always easy. Spurgeon once wrote:

I am trying, if I can, to find a joy in rheumatism, but I cannot get it yet. I have found a joy when it is over -- I can reach that length -- and I can and do bless God for any good result that may come of it; but when the pain is on me, it is difficult to be joyous about it, and so I conclude that my sanctification is very incomplete, and my conformity to the divine will is sadly inmperfect.

In a nutshell, cancer is not the issue we are facing. No matter what happens to us, we are asking God to give us a thankful, joyful, and trusting heart. He can be counted on. May we therefore "continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips that acknowledge His Name" (Heb. 13:15).

Love and warmest wishes,


12:23 PM Once again, Dr. West's nose for the scabrous is unerring. The tragedy, Jim, is that "Christians" will read posts like yours and then go back to fiddling while Rome burns -- shouting their offensive slogans and offering their imprecations, all in the name of their god of course (Thor). All one can say is that "those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad."

One day I will write an essay about the immemorial problems of the political being. The subject of what one might call the flora and fauna of the schizophrenic subconsciousness is one that fascinates me. There are many items in Dante that are very close to what the Obama-haters experience and illustrate. In the meantime, all respectable persons and institutions should take an interest in this matter and offer the strongest possible condemnation of all such evil and un-Christlike imprecation.

10:55 AM It's arrived! Got our copy yesterday. I'm talking about the world-famous Amelia Baptist Church cookbook.

It's called Recipes and Remembrances and is available for $10, plus $4 for shipping and handling. The proceeds go for the work in Ethiopia. Contact for further information, or call the church at (804) 561-4512. Our heartfelt thanks to the ladies of the Love in Action Circle at Amelia Baptist Church for their incredible labor of love.

10:38 AM In my morning devotions/Bible study I was struck by Jesus' statement that He did not come to bring peace but a sword (Matt. 10:34). Jesus is the Great Divider. He divides the world into saved and lost. He divides homes based on loyalty to Him. His Word is sharper than a two-edged sword.

My takeaways?

1) Traditions (church or family) must never be more important to me than the Gospel.

2) Unity among believers brings people to Christ.

3) Out of our commitment to Him must flow our commitment to the world.

4) We must not divide when Christ unites.

5) We must divide when Christ divides.

6) The lost are just that -- lost. Apart from a new birth, our non-Christian friends are doomed to everlasting darkness.

7) The lost are vulnerable to love.

8) Pray, pray, PRAY! Evangelism is the work of God. It's successful only when He is involved.

Jesus divides the lost from the saved, but that does not mean He is not interested in saving them. I want to be as intentional as Jesus was in "seeking and saving that which is lost."

10:24 AM This is sick.

10:20 AM A must-read essay from Arthur Sido: Another denomination splits

10:18 AM This post falls into the category of "Obvious-but-still-interesting": What Do the Bible and the Constitution Have in Common? Ignorance is most certainly not bliss.

10:05 AM I was delighted to read that Tennessee Republican John Duncan says that war is not conservative. I wish I could feel more optimistic about the Obama administration's plans for the Afghan conflict. It's the same old story: nobody wants war, but everyone wants all the things that make for war. The great question now is: will the politicians go on with their lunatic game of power politics, ignoring the fact that within the current nationalistic frames of reference, to achieve real peace will require fundamental changes in our collective thinking and acting. Obama seems a sadder, if not wiser, man since he entered office, living as he does in a state of hardly imaginable pressure. Meanwhile one can only wait and see -- and pray that a satisfactory decision is made. If we go on as we are going now, it is absolutely certain that we will have a long-drawn catastrophe. What a world! We take on all sorts of false risks -- mountain climbing, extreme surfing, NASCAR racing -- provided they have nothing to do with the harsh realities of our own survival.

9:52 AM I am sorry not to have reported to you yesterday anything definitive about Becky's condition. Today she must self-administer an injection that is intended to increase her white count. We are told, and readily believe, that it will produce considerable bone pain. Her shot is scheduled for noon today. I have no idea what will actually happen, but you know how I am praying. It's the normal travail of curative treatments. We are doing as well as can be expected -- "I can cope with everything in union with the One who empowers me." Our hope is in the Lord; everything depends on Him.

Et moi? I'm recovering from what appears to be a chest cold. Thankfully the Lord has not allowed me to get "sick sick" and I am determined to spend today and tomorrow doing nothing but resting and assisting Becky until the maelstrom of activity begins on Saturday. You might say I'm in the Acts 1 mode -- a time of waiting upon the Lord, sitting quietly, seeking His direction. Without that important time of inactivity in Acts 1 -- not one sermon was preached, not one person healed, not one lesson taught -- there would have been no Pentecost and no early church.

Wednesday, November 18

8:47 PM What are the implications of a Great Commission Resurgence for local churches, seminaries, and mission boards? The answers are here. Some excellent suggestions.

8:33 PM Once again I find myself seeing eye to eye with David Croteau of Liberty University on the matter of tithing. For his 4-part series on the subject go here. Matthew Narramore takes a similar view. It's all part of New Covenant living folks.

7:40 PM At the moment we are plunged in what seems a permanent cold drizzle. I piously hope it will be sunny for this weekend's exploits, for B. and I have a very busy schedule for Saturday (Ethiopia orientation, all day) and Sunday (speaking in Greensboro, NC). At the moment I'm trying to get a bit of writing done, while catching up on the blogs, but a cough impedes. I see, by the way, that Alan Knox liked my definition of the church in Christian Archy, though there's an even more beastly one in The Jesus Paradigm. No amount of eloquence about the church can, however, make the smallest difference; the Scriptures alone must decide what happens.

7:12 PM Done. Talk about hyperbaton!

6:42 PM Bec made Romanian stuffed peppers for dinner tonight. Used my mother's old recipe. Good stuff. I'm preparing to sit down and read through 1 Peter in the Greek in one sitting.

6:20 PM Oh my, yet another reminder that the Republican Party is fast becoming the Republican Theocracy.

6:15 PM Jim West's quota of imaginative extravaganzas grows exponentially. Need proof? As for suggestions from me, I regret that at present I have little time to ponder the matter.

5:46 PM I find incisive this piece by Allan Bevere: On the Moral Obligation to Tell a Truthful Narrative. A sample:

While I do believe it is possible for Christians to serve Christ in political office, I wonder how long they would be in office if they insisted on telling the political narrative truthfully because of their commitment to the Lordship of Christ in all areas of life, including politics. The fact that there are Christians who have made a career out of politics makes me wonder what kind of narrative they have decided to embrace.

I tend to agree. I have shown in Christian Archy that it is quite impossible for the state or an institution to be Christian. We see the perversity of political power from the fact that lying becomes an acceptable way of doing business. Kingdom living ought to be truthful.

4:58 PM "Gamsahamnida" to my personal assistant Enoch Kwon and his wife for bringing me a real treat yesterday: sushi and kimchi. Life doesn't get any better than this.

4:52 PM Frederick Buechner once defined a saint with these words: "In God's holy flirtation with the world, God occasionally drops a handkerchief. These handkerchiefs are called saints." Bad theology, but a nice sentiment. How grateful I am that God blows special handkerchiefs our way. Thanks to all of you saints who have written to us with words of encouragement. Time rushes past as though it was trying to win the Breeders Cup, but we are indeed discovering, day by day, that "grace is enough."

4:47 PM Lionel Woods asks a question and then answers it: Is The Local Church Functioning Like The Berlin Wall? According to Lionel:

Christ will build His church, but that doesn't mean He will use us to do it and that would be the greatest failure of all. The privilege of being a Christian is partaking in what Jesus is doing in the world we find ourselves. Partaking of Him and then sharing that nourishment with others. Nothing is greater than that. Listen being right about doctrine, the smell of a new building, bumper stickers, winning a legal case about allowing the Ten Commandments in court, letting our kids wear t-shirts or anything like that, fails in comparison to seeing Christ come to be known by the world. We are satisfied in winning arguments and growing our denominations and so is Satan because he knows that it does nothing to his kingdom.

I encourage everyone to read this essay and heed its warning about misplaced priorities. 

4:42 PM When I die I want my Greek New Testament to be falling apart from use.

4:39 PM Geoffrey Lentz reviews Mega Belt, a fictitious look at Southern churchianity. As one who was raised in the "deep South" (the southernmost state in the union – Hawaii) I can attest that the plague of churchianity is not limited to the contiguous 48 states. I hope the book flourishes.

4:30 PM I really appreciate this feature over at the Truett Seminary site: Faculty Publications. I tell budding New Testament scholars: if you're thinking about a Ph.D. program, be sure to get to know the books your potential major advisor has written. If he or she hasn't written anything, look elsewhere.

4:26 PM I see I'm not the only man who has a child named Nate. Thanks, Greg, for the introduction to your son. A remarkable story.

4:23 PM Congratulations to Lionel, Arthur, and Lew, winners in the prestigious Jesus Paradigm contest. The spectacle of these men jumping through the hoops, alas, is really astounding. A most stupendous performance, if I say so me-self.

4:16 PM If your jaw dropped when you read about militarist Christendom, you'll go into cardiac arrest when you read this piece over at AlterNet: Christian Bootcamp Seeks to Arm Home-Schooled Youths for "Spiritual Warfare." We read:

For Thomas, the call is not only to criminalize abortion and homosexuality, return prayer to the schools, get women out of the workplace, and declare the U.S. a Christian nation, but also to impose Biblical rule on all who reside within our national borders. Furthermore, he's going for blood -- and I mean that literally.

Ah yes, we just need to "go for blood," and all will be well in the nation. Folks, we're aiming at the wrong bull's-eye.

4:12 PM I don't know whether to advise students to become pedagogues: there are so many stereotypes about seminary professors, not least that we are not very pastoral in our outlook. I myself have sought to challenge this accusation both in my writing and my living: orthopraxy must always accompany orthodoxy. Indeed, I can think of no one at SEBTS who would merit the description painted with a rather broad brush in this provocatively titled essay: Beware Your Seminary Professors. It seems to me that we are presented with an illogical either/or:

Numerous matters like these, all heaped together, reminded me what a different thing the academic enterprise is from the eldering enterprise. One is about intellectual stimulation between supposedly good, rational people; the other is about spiritual warfare between desperate, clinging-to-grace people. It's as if you enter the Christian academic realm and all the rules for pastoral care and wisdom suddenly change—in fact, it's as if all the rules suddenly go out the window. "We're all equals here. We're all discerning and wise and godly. Take no heed!"

Are there seminary professors like this? Sure. But a bit of judicious skepticism about such claims seems on the whole an excellent thing.

4:07 PM I have just been reading More Money, More Ministry, which I borrowed from the seminary library. It strikes me as one of the finest books on the role of money in religion I have ever read. We evangelicals can become quite intoxicated with our "ministries," at times with the most desultory outcomes. I want to thank editors Larry Eskridge and Mark Noll for a very self-conscious analysis of a perpetually disturbing question. Affluence is a dangerous thing. It leads almost inevitably to a deliquescence of character. Of course, we all know that the way to avoid pangs of conscience is to claim that our own particular brand of avarice is directly inspired by the Holy Ghost – which, I'm afraid, is done more often than we think.

4:00 PM Regent University announces an opening in Church History.

3:45 PM I have been reading a book I think you would enjoy – if you could read it in the original: Origines del Cristianismo.

It was edited by my friend Antonio Piñero, who blogs here. I've been perusing the book to my great enjoyment. It has a rather toreador attitude towards the "solid conclusions" of New Testament scholarship. I even contributed an essay myself, which is wholly undramatic: "Helenismo y Gnosis." If you're really interested in reading it, I can send you a copy.

3:32 PM Turning to missions, I highly recommend this article by James Denison called The Fifth Great Awakening and the Future of America (.pdf). In the comments section, by the way, there's this perceptive note:

Once again, claiming all Muslims who follow the Quran should be violent. And yet, as you point out, the vast majority of Muslims are not violent extremists. So, what options do we have to explain this phenomena:

Option A) KT2005's argument. Muslims who are not violent don't follow the Quran since the Quran teaches violence. Quran also teaches toleration of religious minorites, but you did not mention those texts.

Option B) Sort of a variation on Option A. Muslims have not been properly taught. Their religion is violent, but due to improper teaching, they don't know they are supposed to be violent, and at least 90% of them are not subscribing to an extremists ideology.

Option C) Muslims have learned, as have followers of other religions whose texts contain violent admonitions, that these texts have a context. Many texts call for violence in response to violence in specific circumstances and are not general call for violence against non-Muslims.

I think Option C is the most accurate in describing this phenomena. Am I saying there are no extremists? I am not, of course there are Muslims who are violent. But please stop arguing that Muslims who follow the Quran must be violent, because that is what the Quran teaches. As was pointed out above, there are many violent texts in the Hebrew Bible; are modern Jews not good Jews if they fail to follow these texts? No, they realize that texts have a context.

Texts have a context? My word, you mean to tell me that we have to exegete our sources?

3:25 PM Winfield Bevin's offers Seven Essentials of the Lord’s Prayer. (I counted only 6, but no biggie.) The final one reads:

The prayer closes in a similar way that it started, by acknowledging God's greatness. He is sovereign and in control. The kingdom, power, and glory belong to God! When we worship and praise God, it gets his attention. He loves it when his children worship him and acknowledge his greatness.


Monday, November 16

10:48 PM It's getting late and I'm momentarily anticipating a bout of gibbering idiocy. But I feel I have to report to you about B's visit to UNC Hospital today.

In addition to anticipating the normal pain from the chemo hitting her about the third day, Becky will be giving herself a shot that is intended to spur her bone marrow. This medicine, we are told, causes ... bone pain. In an email to a friend tonight, Becky wrote:

I'm armed with steroids, with strong pain medicine, with well as nutritional aids, hot water bottle, etc. The pain will start on Wed afternoon, and likely be very bad Thurs & Fri, and I hope beginning to taper on Saturday, and be gone by Tuesday. 

Personally, I am asking the Lord to protect Becky from ALL pain this time around. I know that is asking for the moon, but it's my humble request nonetheless. I do not intend to presume on the Lord in any way, shape, or form. This is simply the petition of a man who deeply loves his own body, which is exactly what Becky is.

On another note, here's a shout out to my Greek students at Bethel Hill. Tonight was our penultimate class. Next week is the final exam from 1 John, and I intend to pass out plenty of 110 Awards to everyone who gets a perfect score.

By the way, did you know that Greek is a sport? It's a sport where the mind is the muscle at work. My students at The Hill are good at it too. In fact, if there was a National Greek Bowl, I'd put them up against the best. Students, what can I say? I'm delighted with you. I thank God for you. I love you. Now make the old curmudgeon proud and use what you've worked so hard to acquire. Don't be like the great majority of Greek students who fail in this regard. As I suggested tonight, read at least two verses a day from your Greek New Testament. No, I don't care if you have to use an interlinear. No, I don't mind if you use a parsing guide. Yes, it's fine with me if you use a reader's edition of the GNT. Please remember that "all Scripture is inspired by God and is USEFUL!" Scripture that is imbued with this kind of power cannot be passively received. So read it.

In a sense, I've handed the ball off to you. I expect you to either score a touchdown or else get mightily pummeled in the attempt. So...

Go, team, go!

For God's glory and the upbuilding of the Body.

Go, team, go!

Sunday, November 15

9:24 PM Before praying with Becky Lynn and heading off to bed, I thought I might offer one additional thought on blogging, and that is this: Pray before posting. Pray every time you write a post. Pray while uploading your post. Pray before you've blogged and after you've blogged. Pray that God would be pleased with your post and that He would bless it for His purposes. Thank Him ahead of time for how He will use it. If you have a conscience on a certain matter, by all means follow it. People with petty legalisms may take offense. This is unavoidable. Sometimes offense is inevitable. We must not allow others to paralyze our blogging efforts. Wisdom, however, teaches us that while everything is permissible, not everything is constructive. At times we may have to limit our liberty to say what we want to say despite our freedom to say it. And, I think, at all times it is necessary to avoid unnecessary offence. (Please note the italicized word.) The bottom line? Not sure. But it might just be this:

Do not seek your own good, but the good of others (1 Cor. 10:24).

I'd offer more thoughts but it's been a long day and I've got brain burn out. I do appreciate very much Dr. Jim's response to my earlier post on blogging. I have a great deal of respect and even affection for Jim West, even though we've never met.

Tomorrow B and I leave early for the hospital. I'll try to give you an update on her condition tomorrow evening. Greek students at the Hill, unless you hear otherwise, our Monday night class is still on. See you at 7:00 pm Deo volente.

Now it's time to pray!

7:52 PM I thought of Becky when I read these words in John Pollock's biography, Hudson Taylor and Maria (p. 172):

She gave ... their work all she had, every ounce of strength, every thought that crossed her intelligent mind, all the force of her love.

Wow! What a woman that Maria must have been. And what a helper to her husband. Paul called his helper in Philippi "Yokefellow." He knew the work of the Gospel would not get done without partners. Think of his partnership with Silas or Timothy. Or even with Euodia and Syntyche. I've been blessed, guys and gals, with a great and, I believe, perhaps even somewhat unique marital partnership. I often wonder how many husbands and wives there are whom God could probably have used more effectively had they considered themselves co-workers in the kingdom.

Do you consider your spouse a "partner in the Gospel"?

7:08 PM I do indeed feel a bit guilty for posting so many pictures in one day, but I can't seem to get tired or bored even for a few moments on the farm. After Nate and I fed the cows and I enjoyed supper with Becky, I wandered outdoors again to watch the sun go down. As I said earlier, it was a gorgeous day and everything was glorious (except for my sore feet). The sunset was on a par with anything I ever saw while growing up in Hawaii. As I sat on my front lawn, dogs bedside me, I spent time praying for the lost and for other burdens on my heart. I think I know why Jesus loved to pray outdoors. In the tidal wave of the day's events and tomorrow's cares it's a safe place where I feel the grip of a powerful hand offering me transferred strength and direction.

But enough philosophizing for one day. Here are some pix for your enjoyment.


3:41 PM Here's Brian Fulthorp with yet another must-read book review: The Community of the King. Through the years I've often thanked God for the contribution Howard Synder has made to my understanding of the church. Read the review, then go and buy the book.

3:35 PM Just back from walking the property line with Nathan. In case you didn't know, deer season just came in. I tell you, this has been one of most knock-dead gorgeous days I've ever seen. I still can't believe Nate and I fenced in all 123 acres. I know I've said that before, but it's true. Where did we ever get the time or energy?

Pix (of course):

12:15 PM Turning the pooter over to Becky. Back to writing for me. Godworld. What a huge subject!

12:10 PM Tim Archer thinks our pre-meal prayers ought to be, well, focused:

A few years ago, I made a decision about praying before eating. I decided that there was a reason why a prayer was said before a meal. It was to pray about the meal. Not about the weather. Not about Aunt Petunia’s gall bladder. It was to pray about the meal.

Now I guess there’s nothing wrong with praying about just about anything at just about any time. Still, it seems like asking a blessing for food should be about asking a blessing for food. Giving thanks for food should be about giving thanks for food.

I love how our grandkids Caleb, Isaac, and Micah pray at mealtimes: "Thank you God for the meat and the potatoes and the green beans and the salad and the salad dressing..." --  all the while their eyes are half open so as not to miss anything Becky has prepared. Precious!

11:52 AM So Springsteen forgot what state he was in. Big deal. I work in three states: Virginia, North Carolina, and the State of Confusion.

11:42 AM Andy Bowden reviews Biblical Authority by Jimmy Draper and Ken Keathley. Read the review. You won't regret it.

11:26 AM In case you hadn't noticed, we decided to stay home from church today. Can't risk it, what with all the flu going around these days. If I got sick Becky could catch what I have, and who would take care of her? So all's quiet on the farm front this morning. Right now Becky is picking veggies in the garden, and I'm trying to get some writing done. We also had a visit from Nate and Jess before they went off to their church. Of course, the official farm photographers were present to do their duty for posterity. Enjoy!

11:14 AM I'm not quite sure what to do with the term Christian Hedonism. The expression is a little too narcissistic for my liking. I don't see how one can be a pleasure to God without being a light to the world. At the same time, it's all too easy for me to stand off in my little corner being critical of others who differ from my own perceptions. It's clear that we are to enjoy God and bring Him pleasure. It is just as clear that those in the New Testament who actually did that took risks, overcame obstacles, and set standards that leave us breathless today. That's what I call a sense of earthly insecurity! Paul even went so far as to say that his greatest concern was that "Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death" (Phil. 1:20). Please notice that last phrase. Paul was expendable. He was willing to die. He did not have to live.

The lesson is obvious: If we are going to call ourselves Christian hedonists, we had better be sure that the secular meaning of the term doesn't creep into the definition. Otherwise, all we're left with is:

9:18 AM There are 3 questions I ask myself about my blogging -- 3 hurdles, if you will, I must jump. These are not original with me; I gleaned them 1 Cor. 6:12 and 10:23.

1) Is it expedient? Are my posts helping others in their walk with Jesus or hindering them?

2) Is it enslaving? One's hobby can become a snare. Am I in bondage to my blogging?

3) Is it edifying? Some things do not build others up. I must not build with wood, hay, and stubble but with gold, silver, and precious stones.

If my blogging can clear these 3 hurdles then I feel like I may proceed. Have I always lived up to these goals? I wish I could say yes. I'm in constant need of grace. But these are my ideals.

What are yours?

8:24 AM An Italian monk says the devil made him a celebrity so he's giving up performing. For those of you who cry "ad fontes":

"Frate Metallo", il cappuccino 63enne diventato famoso come cantante di una band heavymetal, afferra il microfono e dice che il diavolo lo ha fatto diventare troppo celebre per i suoi gusti.

He has a point. Just because we enjoy worldly success doesn't mean our success comes from the Lord.

8:13 AM Preachers wearing what?

8:08 AM Now here's a jolly good story:

A high school librarian in Phoenix says a former student at the school returned two overdue books checked out 51 years ago along with a $1,000 money order to cover the fines.

Camelback High School librarian Georgette Bordine says the two Audubon Society books checked out in 1959 and the money order were sent by someone who wanted to remain anonymous.

Bordine says the letter explained that the borrower's family moved to another state and the books were mistakenly packed.

The letter said the money order was to cover fines of 2 cents per day for each book. That would total about $745. The letter says the extra money was added in case the rates had changed.

Bordine says the money will buy more books, and the overdue books will be returned to the shelves.

I read it here. My, what a contrast with today's prosperity preachers.

7:56 AM Walking back from N and J's yesterday I noticed this pot hole. Who knows how many times we've filled it in with gravel, but it keeps on collecting water. Must be a weak spot in our pond dam.

If this isn't a vivid picture of the Christian life! Jesus brings us victory in one area of our lives, and we are lifted up in our spirits. A moment later we fall flat on our faces again, paralyzed morally and spiritually. Heb. 12:1 refers to our "easily besetting sin." Failure is always costly. It's costly to keep falling into the same pot hole all the time. I wish I had a "3-step" solution to this problem, but I don't, and neither does anyone else. I know only too well what it means to get into a religious rut and fall into a mere form of religion without power. Someone once called a rut a grave with both ends knocked out. To get out from our ruts the Scriptures must be turned from words on a page to inward nourishment and power. Our Savior said we must eat His flesh and drink His blood if we are to have life in us. How ridiculous to act as though the Gospel had never proven its case. There is no doubt about the Gospel and Christ. The simplest faith in the Christ of the Gospel will save us -- and the simpler the faith the better!  

7:37 AM "Before there was an Abraham, I AM," said Jesus. Before there was Twitter, I was tweeting. And before there were organic churches, Archie's dad pastored one.


What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun (Eccl. 1:10).

Saturday, November 14

7:04 PM Quote of the day #2 (Alan Knox):

We can be highly educated and just as highly disobedient.

O.K., I know this looks like the worst sort of tit-for-tat-ism, but who cares. The quote is a classic.

6:58 PM For sure, this is one memoir I will be reading as soon as I can order it: My Prison, My Home. I tell you, Esfandiari is one courageous woman.

6:32 PM This classic WW II story came in yesterday's mail:

In the introduction, George Harsh, himself a former POW, writes:

[This book] proves something that I believed then and know now -- there is nothing that can stop a group of men, regardless of race, creed, color or nationality, from achieving a goal once they agree as to what that goal is.

The Great Escape took place because a bunch of ragged, verminous men of all nationalities worked together to achieve one common goal, that of thumbing their collective nose at the Third Reich.

Today we who claim to be Christians can succeed in reaching our goal only when we unite around a Galilean troublemaker who was executed by Pontius Pilate with the overwhelming consent of the man on the street. To get tied up with this rabblerouser is to risk all kinds of trouble. But the goal -- the evangelization of the nations -- is worth it. Are you motivated by church loyalty or by an overwhelming sense of the love of Christ in dying for you and for  others on the cross of Calvary?

4:58 PM Chris, in the comments to this post, makes one of the most astute observations about biblical scholarship I have ever read:

After all, simple knowledge of data does not make someone a scholar. What do they do with that data? That is the mark of a real scholar.

I couldn't agree more!

4:50 PM Got a minute for some exciting news from Burji? Here it is, in Becky's own words:

I just got off the phone with Oshe in Burji, Ethiopia! What a wonderful blessing to hear his voice and be able to do the work so efficiently through phone communication! I well remember the days of no phone, no email, and no reliable postal service!

Oshe is the General Secretary of the 33 churches in Burji. Here is a summary of his report.

  • At the clinic, the refurbishing of the staff houses and the building of the guard house is almost completed.

  • The water harvesting system is almost completed…only the hand pump and the solar-powered water heater remain to be placed. The rains are currently being collected into the reservoir tanks. The staff is “Oh, so much excited!” about having water on the campus.

  • The vehicle has already been used as an ambulance. Two people were shot in their legs in a nearby village. They were brought to the clinic for emergency aid, and then transported to Arba Minch hospital (about 6-8 hours away). They laid one patient on each side of the back of the vehicle, and family members squatted in the center. Everyone was rejoicing at this provision!

  • Chaplain Solomon reports that 56 people came to Christ through the work of the clinic in this past year. These have come almost exclusively from Muslim backgrounds. All of these people are now attending local churches in 4 villages surrounding the clinic, and the church leaders are aggressively discipling them.

  • Last week the government officials visited the clinic. They have issued a license for “Ground Level Health Center.” They are very pleased with the improvements that have been made, but we need to upgrade the personnel to a better educational standard. This is particularly applicable to our laboratory tech Aklelu. (Please pray for God to bring us His choice for this position.)

  • Praise God, our new Clinic Supervisor/Senior Nurse Tessera is very happy working at the clinic. He is highly educated (“almost a doctor”). He is a strong Christian. Many, many years ago he worked at the clinic, but recently was working at the government Health Center in Soyama. The people are happy that he has returned. After the staff housing is completed he will stay on the campus M-F and return to his family in Soyama Town for the weekends. Dawit continues at the clinic, now as the Junior Nurse.

  • The Burji churches are so happy about our large team coming in July 2010. The distant Konso churches (which are recent church plants by the Burji churches) are especially rejoicing. (We have our first orientation this week; about 23 are on the Burji Team, coming from 5 different churches.)

  • Please pray for wisdom as we finish out the financial reports and move forward with the erection of a new 3-room building. This building will provide a Storage Room (the current one is in danger of falling down any minute), a Diagnostics Room (for EKG and ultrasound), and a Labor-and-Delivery Room.  We will make the old Labor and Delivery Room into the Overnight Observation Room.

Words cannot express my appreciation to all of you who have joined this work through your prayers, your love, and your financial gifts. Without us, these people are truly abandoned. It would be absolutely impossible for them to do this ministry apart from our active assistance. May our Lord bless you for helping, according to His plan for you!

Rejoicing in His work and your partnership,


I told you this was exciting news, didn't I? Just think -- our ambulance has already been used to save lives. And souls are being saved from a Christless eternity. All because of the generosity of God's people. I join Becky in saying thank you for your partnership in the Gospel. May the Lord Jesus richly bless you for it.

2:20 PM When I said I was out cutting fire wood today, you didn't think I was using an axe did you? I may be dumb but I'm not stupid. This here wood-splitter was worth every penny we spent on it.

 And here's the farm foreman. Da Supa-visa, to be exact. Ain't he sweet?


2:10 PM Shortly the B-bloggers will begin their southward migration, destination New Orleans. Since I have attended as many of these conferences as Jim West has attended covered-dish suppers, I might as well offer my puny little two cents. Though I don't for a minute want to disparage the scholarship of the SBL or ETS, I'm convinced that the annual meetings are good for one thing and for one thing only --  developing relationships. And in three arenas at that: with one's peers, with the publishers, and with the prima donnas. (Can you tell I'm a Baptist?)

Peers: Spend as much time as you can with them over meals, in the lobby, passing in the hallways. You can even travel to the site together and share the same hotel room. If you don't, you're missing out on some great fellowship. Oddly enough, sometimes I have more one-on-one conversations with my SEBTS colleagues at an annual meeting than I do on campus, where we're often too busy to gather around the water cooler.

Publishers: They're all there, so take advantage of it -- and not only to purchase discounted books. Get to know the editors, especially the acquisitions staff. If you have a book proposal, they'll be glad to arrange a (very brief) meeting with you. Come well-prepared with an attractive proposal and you might just end up striking a deal somewhere down the road.

Prima donnas: I'm joking of course. You'll find the senior scholars in your field to be (for the most part) witty, approachable, and -- I must add -- extremely busy. The best time to corner one is just after they've read their paper. Tell them how much you enjoyed their presentation and how you share their interests. Don't be afraid to invite one out for dinner -- they just might take you up on it!

As for the papers themselves, my only advice is this: Younger scholars, you should probably attend the sessions where the senior scholars in your field are speaking. Senior scholars, go and listen to some of your younger colleagues. You'll never know what an encouragement you could be to them. You can even ask a (polite) question during the Q & A session. Shake their hands. Pat them on the back. Invite them out to dinner. (Now wouldn't that be something.)

P.S. Spend lots of money in NO, guys. The city needs it.

10:15 AM Been a cheery morning so far. Out mucking, paused for some hotcakes, then back to splitting firewood. I just saw the sun peeping through the clouds. Glory be!

10:02 AM Hey, check out the book signing going on today at the UMC in Pine Forest, FL (I assume that's a 'burb of Pensacola). Lots of good books and happy authors. Why, if you ask Henry for a copy of Christian Archy he might even oblige you if you're willing to review it on your blog.

8:58 AM While washing dishes this morning I listened to a wonderful message on BBN by Warren Wiersbe on 1 Pet. 3:1-8. Sound teaching here! He spoke about a husband honoring his wife. Convicting teaching here! Do you ever listen to good old-fashioned BBN? I guarantee it will not interfere with your sanctification.

8:06 AM Some clear-headed thinking here by Conn Hallinan: Why the Afghan Surge Will Fail. Of course, his essay appears on the same page as this ad: "Why Wal-Mart is Doomed." The sensational title aside, Conn notes that the war is essentially a stalemate, even if we send in an additional 150,000 troops. Be sure to read his peroratio for his recommendation to the president.

7:51 AM Quote of the day:

Some African governments prefer dealing with China, which does not pay as much attention to human rights as some western ones.


6:57 AM Go here to find out who the three finalists are in "America's Top College Professor" competition. I'm rooting for Elliott West of the University of Arkansas. Why? Don't he just look like a teacher? (All great teachers have thinning hairlines.)

6:47 AM Nearly 100 years after the Edinburgh 1910 World Missionary Conference, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary will host the 2009 Shoemaker Conference. The conference is being called "Proclamation & Presence: Learning from the Global Church 1910-2010" and will be held Dec. 10-12, 2009. For details go here.

6:40 AM Sincerest felicitations to my good friend and colleague Mike Holmes on being named University Professor of Biblical Studies and Early Christianity at Bethel University.

Mike was kind enough to accept my invitation to speak at our colloquium on textual criticism at SEBTS back in 2000. His paper, along with those of Eldon Epp, Maurice Robinson, Moises Silva, and Keith Elliott, were published in a book I had the honor of editing called Rethinking New Testament Textual Criticism. Mike holds to reasoned eclecticism, but I like him anyway.

Friday, November 13

8:59 PM Mr. Photogenic showed up tonight for supper and an old black-and-white Ingrid Bergman movie. His mom and dad stayed too. I cooked muffins for dessert. Thankful for a great family.

4:51 PM On pp. 49-50 of Sydney Smith's Mission Escape we read:

On Sunday afternoon, with about seventy prisoners milling around the sports field, Bushell scrabbled a shallow depression in the floor of the goat-shed and stowed himself away. Nick Tindall led the "burial" part for him and reported brightly back to Wings: "He's tucked away all right.... I put a wad of goat dung over his face."

Accuracy, my friends, accuracy! Goats don't produce wads but droppings. Take it from a skubala expert.

Not bad, eh, for an old corn-fed provincialist like me?

4:10 PM Let me give you a quick update on Becky. Her blood counts are now within acceptable ranges, so we are "go" for Monday's chemo treatment #3. We will also meet with her radiologist on Monday to begin preparing her for her treatments (6 weeks of daily radiation). Thank you bunches for your prayers for Becky. God is answering each and every one. Her illness has forced us to recalibrate our minds on the true and living God in new ways. He drenches us with blessings even when they come disguised as troubles.

4:02 PM Just arrived. Sweet-tastik. Kudos to Energion Publications for a handsome product. Alas, one can't judge a book by its cover!

2:53 PM I see that Johann Kim's SBL paper is now online. It's called Towards a Communal Reading of Paul: Galatians as a Test Case (.pdf). I wish Johann well in his presentation. I do hope, however, that someone asks him about the statement he makes on p. 42 of his paper:

Yet Asian Americans have been excluded from the so-called “mainstream” American society and have been forced to remain strangers in America.

If that is true, I agree with Johann that the church must do more to rectify that situation. Man, I hope and pray that the Asian students at my school do not feel excluded. If you do, please let me know!

2:30 PM Just took the dogs for a slush-walk. Should start drying out by Sunday. Central Virginia's been sitting on a 6 inch rain deficit this year. I imagine it will be wiped out by tomorrow. Thankful for that, but it will be nice to see the sun again.

2:12 PM Good to see yet another article calling out the new breed of political demagogues who frighten Americans with epithets against our "enemies." I'm referring, of course, to this essay by Charles Peña: Not Every Tragedy Is Terrorism. It is wicked and subversive for Christians to try deliberately to replace reason with passion and to substitute Christian love with hatred. The only thing more tragic is the credulity of the people who believe such nonsense. Christ made a strong distinction between the kingdom and political concerns. Since I, like Eller and Ellul, make the same distinction, it is assumed that I must be arguing for social disengagement. Quite the opposite. Activism-- yes! Let's engage the culture by Christ's power, and that power is the power of the cross.

11:59 AM Update: Henry Neufeld joins the conversation about Bible translation. Hmmm. Requiring our students to translate Karl Barth into understandable English? Not a bad idea!

11:32 AM In the most recent essay to be published on our home page, Becky describes the current projects that need financial assistance in Ethiopia. It's called Assisting the Work in Ethiopia. Praise the Lord for His provision!

10:32 AM I am not a grouser, but I had hoped for far more than this from the pen of the monogenic Jim West. To wit:

Some presenters will be so dull that you’ll look around and see people actually sleeping! 

Come on Jim, this is the prestigious

SBL Meeting!

Scholars never come unprepared, never hand out typo-ridden manuscripts, never bore you to death! Niemals!!

10:25 AM It's always gratifying to witness good blogging, and no one seems to be doing it better these days than Adam Darnell. I greatly appreciate his essay called Dangers to Christian Living in James. I don't mean to imply for a moment that I approve of everything he has written, but his remarks deserve careful consideration.

P.S. Adam is a relative newcomer to blogging but is doing what every blogger ought to do: post regularly.

10:19 AM I was delighted to see the first review of my latest book, Christian Archy. A thousand thanks to Geoff Smith for squandering some of his precious time in writing it. It's a splendid review and I'm utterly persuaded! 

8:25 AM Recently Becky and I received a copy of this typewritten log book of the pioneer missionaries in Burji, Ethiopia.

It's an amazing account. It's given me a new appreciation of those who sacrificed everything to help establish the church of Jesus Christ in a place where Becky and I now have the privilege of working. Even more importantly, it is a great reminder to me that missions is The Cause of causes.

Here are just a few entries from this fascinating log:

Feb. 25, 1947: "No trucks have been to Burji since Italian days and none would go. Now what? How were we to get in with our supplies? Two Arab traders very kindly helped locate and hire camel trains for us."

July 3, 1947: "Demon possessed man came. Next day ran off with a clinic key. Two days later he came back again and paced around our home for 4 hours. He had broken chains and escaped. After several more visits from him we saw him no more. Next thing, several months later, they went by here taking him to the cemetery to bury him. Another lost soul! Were we too late?"

Aug. 12, 1951: "Guyo and Wacho were saved."

(Guyo was murdered in 1994 while taking the Gospel to the Gujis.)

I could go on and on.

Twenty centuries ago Jesus trained 70 ordinary people to evangelize the towns and villages of Galilee. Spiritual training wheels in place, they went out 2 by 2 to extend the kingdom of God over the kingdoms of man. Now that very same kingdom is being expanded in southern Ethiopia. Quite honestly, Becky and I would probably not be working in Burji had it not been for her parents' generation of evangelists who overcame cultural barriers to take the Gospel to people like Guyo and Wacho.

Today, the teams that Becky and I take with us to Ethiopia are comprised of people who are no different from the 70 or those who came to Burji 60 years ago. They don't get appointed to Mission Ethiopia because of their academic or social credentials. It's their relationship with Christ that matters. They are willing and eager to testify to how Jesus brought them forgiveness and joy, how the Gospel changed their marriage, how Christianity gave them a new sense of meaning in life. That's how Jesus worked with His Task Force of 70, and that's how He still works today.

The bottom line is this: All of us are commissioned to make the invisible God visible in the same way Jesus did when He was on earth. We are to live as He lived, love as He loved, speak as He spoke, and do as He did. There are billions of lost sheep out there, about half of them Muslims. We're sent to find them. I'm asking God to raise up a generation of Jesus-focused, Gospel-minded, cross-carrying Jesus-followers who, like those who first went to Burji in the 1940s, are willing to be used as redemptive tools in the hands of the Master.

Below: Becky is always with the people while we are in Ethiopia. She really is "one of them." They know it, and so do we.

One of our greatest joys is to hear young people reciting Scripture passages to get their own Amharic Bible. Thousands of Bibles have been distributed in Burji alone.

This has got to be one of my all-time favorite pix of Bec. The Burjis love her. What do they see in her if not the Savior?

8:02 AM In the course of teaching Greek (both classical and Koine) the past 34 years I've found that translating Greek into English is a very different enterprise from understanding what the text means. A translation may at times sound very erudite, but to be relevant and beneficial the text must be understood -- and then applied. One of my greatest challenges as a teacher has been to get my students to see the need to give up theological jargon when translating from Greek into English. If we can use simpler and clearer words to express the truths of Scripture, then by all means let's do so. Why, for example, should we render Rom. 12:11 "distribute to the needs of the saints" when "share what you have with God's people who are in need" will do the job and is much clearer? Or why should we insist that the purpose of pastor-teachers is "to equip the saints for the work of the ministry" when we can say "to prepare God's people for works of service"? If all we do is parrot the standard English versions while translating from English to Greek, I'm afraid we'll end up with nothing but another secret religious society. If insisting on the use of theological jargon actually helped people to become more obedient to the Word of God, I'd say do it at all costs. But is there any evidence that it does?

To admit this inadequacy honestly can be very intimidating to the teacher. It means, in fact, that we can no longer be content to offer courses in Greek exegesis that fail to include serious self-examination. Somehow we need to move our students from a mere grammatical approach to the text to one that involves them deeply in the Christian pilgrimage. What is the purpose of exegeting Paul's Christ-hymn in Phil. 2:5-11 if we, the translators, are not willing to model the upside-down kingdom of God in our own lives? Strangely, I am discovering that more and more of my students are asking the "so what" question of everything they are learning. And I am more and more convinced that the joy of living the Gospel in our lives is what should drive the exegetical process in the first place. I may be wrong, but when we talk about "seminary education," I think we are talking about training students for the adventure of living the Christian life in the real world by doing what is important in God's eyes. I have found, to my horror, that it is far easier to simply talk about the text than to seek to live it out. Look at the New Testament writers like Paul or John who wrote and taught in the crucible of actual missionary experience. They were willing to follow the Lord Jesus even at the risk of death. They didn't just talk about the truth, they lived it.

If Paul says I am to share what I have with God's people who are in need, I'd better be doing just that. This pedagogical insight may belong in a fortune cookie, but it's the best I can do.

Thursday, November 12

9:20 PM Henry Neufeld notes that the New Living Translation's Greek interlinear is now available in Beta form. Why not sign in and check it out? I did. Aids like these have their proper place in Bible study despite what the purists might say.

9:12 PM Celucien Joseph posts a "provocative letter."

6:40 PM The Islam-bashing that has come to define one wing of evangelicalism stems from an overlapping set of problems: American exceptionalism, militant religion, a crusader mentality, and biblical ignorance. Eager to follow in the footsteps of the Crusaders, these sectarian defenders of "the American way of life" feed on militarism to advance their own religious ambitions. What else can Armageddon and crusadership produce than the victory of Christendom over the pagan world? Onward Christian soldiers!

In World War II we had the "Hun" and the "Jap." Now we have the Ay-rab. The bishop of London during the First World War called the conflict "a great crusade -- we cannot deny it --  to kill Germans." He urged all Brits to "mobilize for a holy war." I did not hear the A-word in this video clip posted by Jim West, but end-times Armageddonism lurks just below the surface. Once again, it's liberty-versus-tyranny, good-versus-evil, us-versus-them. To say that this is a dangerous and false view of reality is a gross understatement.

Jim is absolutely right in calling for an end to such absurd and embarrassing warmongering, but his call will go unheeded as long as Americans continue to drape our crosses with flags. The tragedy at Fort Hood has turned out to be but another barometer of the religious right's thinking. It proves that the romance of the Great Crusade is still alive and well.

The war whoops of militant Protestantism are a tragic cacophony. Folks, its time we left Left Behind behind -- along with our crusader inebriation. It's just possible that we'll come to see that God doesn't really hate Arabs after all and certainly no more than He hated a certain terrorist in the New Testament named Saul who later became Paul. If I were the devil I would do everything I could to distract every Christian I could from the things that matter the most. I would take something tragic like the senseless murders in Texas and use it as an excuse to start another crusade against Islam. I suspect, however, that God would like to use the tragedy for a different purpose. As soon as we use our faith in God to set ourselves up as mini-redeemers who will "ensure Christianity's survival," then it becomes just one more illusion, and the God it purports to believe in is no longer there.

1:17 PM Anticipation continues to build for the invasion of SBL in Nawlins by the B-bloggers. With mocking irony, über-blogger Jim West savages the naysayers who lift a purist eyebrow with the worst sort of bourgeois morality. True, it's a weird alchemy that combines the banal power of blogging with the sublime function of biblical scholarship. Putting that aside, however, I suspect that the B-bloggers are capable of becoming the life of the party this year. Will the end product be a state of frenzy or infantilism? Stay tuned....

1:12 PM Just back from getting B's blood work done in Clarksville. We'll get the results tomorrow. Her next chemo is scheduled for Monday, if her blood counts are within acceptable ranges.

11:26 AM Hmmmm. When I visited old Tut's tomb in Luxor, I don't recall seeing those brown spots on the wall.

Two other inconsequential thoughts:

1) If you can believe it, Becky and I traveled from Jerusalem to Egypt via public transportation -- a bus, to be exact. Down through the desert, across the Suez. Hot, dirty, dusty, smelly, crowded.

2) In Cairo we not only saw the Giza pyramids but spent a long day on camel-back visiting the pyramids of Sakkara. Even climbed to the top of one of them. Oh, and the camel seat I have in my Wake Forest office? It came from that trip.

My word, have Becky and I always been so adventurous?

10:57 AM I love observing our cattle. And there's nothing more interesting than watching a calf being weaned from its mama. "Time for you to be eatin' grass, sonny boy, jess like us big-uns," I can hear mama cow say in Cow-speak. Try as it may, the calf isn't allowed to suckle anymore. If necessary, mama has to use a swift (yet gentle) cow-kick to make her point. But one thing's for sure: That weanling's gonna have to get its own food if it wants to survive.

I can't help but think of the "weaners" I've had in my life. You know, the men and women who pushed me to think on my own and to stop depending so much on the conclusions of others. My professor in Basel was a good example. What was so awesome about Bo Reicke was that he pushed me off the sidelines and on to the playing field. He dared me to stand up, stand out, and think hard. Professor Reicke was never "pushy," but he pushed me nonetheless. He prodded me to master (not just learn) the languages (German, French, Spanish, Latin, etc.), to practice the basics of good research and writing, and to engage modern scholarship with a healthy dose of skepticism. He pushed me not only in the classroom but in his home, where I had a chance to see a humble scholar up close and personal (the first month I lived in Basel I stayed in the Reickes' home).

Think about it. Who are the people in your life who have gotten you into the game? They're not busy selling their own brand of knowledge as much as seeking to equip you with the tools for you to be your own person. Instead of wanting their students to rely on them, they're pushing and prodding them away, just like that mother cow does to her weanling.

When you think about it, Jesus was a weaner too. He trained His followers to stand apart from the crowd. He knew He would have to leave them one day. He raised up a generation of Spirit-dependent, counter-culture radicals who were willing to cut against the grain and the accepted thinking of their time. I mean, what could be more radical than preaching the kingdom of God!

We need more weaners in our halls of learning who are going to push their students to go deeper and wider than they themselves have ever gone. May God raise up leaders who dare to demand that their followers stand on their own two feet!

10:34 AM Here I am back on the farm after two great days of teaching the most wonderful group of students on planet earth. I'm tired, groggy, and blown away at how Jesus blessed my days on campus. I'm delighted at the progress of my first year Greek students. They seem happy, motivated, and are having a good time -- unthinkable in a beginning Greek class! I've had the slightest touch of grippe but expect to be back in the saddle soon. The weather here is awful -- nothing but constant rain showers since yesterday morning -- and it will probably not improve for a couple more days. The Fort Hood tragedy continues to play out in the media, with many questionable revelations. I managed to watch the president's speech at the army base and was reminded again of the absolute futility of trying to find "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" in anything other than my heavenly citizenship. Even as our nation is elevated to almost mythic proportions -- the "city on the hill" that one president once talked about -- I'm feeling more and more like a pilgrim journeying into the unknown as far as this world is concerned. Like Abraham, I'm looking for a city whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11:10). I look forward to applying myself in the coming days and weeks to trying to flesh this concept out in my book Godworld. Meanwhile, time to grab a cup of coffee and try to get the cobwebs out of my system.

Wednesday, November 11

9:31 PM Fees at the University of Basel are going up, so what do the students do? Occupy the university's assembly hall in protest, of course. So reports today's Basler Zeitung. Nothing new here. They did the same thing when I was a student there in 1981. At that time they wanted a "free" or at least "cheap" education. Students protested. Storefront windows were smashed. Just how do they think the university is operated -- from freewill offerings?

Newsflash -- nothing is free, least of all a good education.

8:28 PM Look at what I was in the mood for tonight. Baked 'em me-self too. Raisin muffins. Won't be around long though. Specially if Nate pays us a visit.

7:25 PM I have stopped reading the libertarian blogs. I am feeling exceedingly virtuous.

6:55 PM Kudos to Kevin Vanhoozer, who just delivered two days of lectures at the seminary. Here he is fielding questions during our faculty luncheon today.

... and to my Ph.D. student Mel Winstead, who gave a guest lecture in our New Testament Theology class today on the participles in Hebrews. And no, "Mel" is not short for Melchizedek. Thanks, brother, for a job well done.

6:43 PM Over at AlterNet there's a good piece about the killings at Fort Hood: Focusing on Fort Hood Killer's Beliefs Is an Easy Out to Avoid the Deeper Reasons for the Massacre.

6:40 PM Jason calls our attention to a recently published Greek textbook called New Testament Greek Intermediate: From Morphology to Translation. It retails for $62.50 – a bit pricey for my students. Then again, it's 620 pages. I'm looking forward to reading it despite its awkward-sounding title.

6:32 PM We talked about the message of James in theology class today. James had plenty to say about greed. In this respect I think you would do well to read this essay by Greg Boyd (yes, that Greg Boyd; you may not agree with his open theology but here he is spot on) about the sin of Sodom. Greg writes:

The irony is that we often hear conservative Christian leaders publicly crusading against the sin of Sodom. And we have to grant that, if ever a nation was guilty of the sin of Sodom, it is indeed America. Yet the sin of Sodom for which we are most guilty is not homosexuality; it is greed, gluttony and apathy toward the poor! And if there’s one ungodly aspect of American culture that the Church has succumbed to, it is this sin.

Yet, instead of confessing that we Christians tend to be guilty of the sin of Sodom, many leaders rather pin the label on homosexuals. They're trying to take the "speck" of homosexuality out their neighbor's eye and don't notice the "plank" of greed, gluttony and apathy in their own (Mt 7:1-3).

He concludes:

While our culture along with the prince of lies who rules it conditions us into thinking and feeling that possessing things gives us life, the truth is that whatever we think we possess actually possesses us. Owning things doesn't give life: it sucks life out of us. The perpetually hungry life of pursuing wealth and possessions is a form of diabolic slavery.

In contrast to this, Jesus' call to manifest the beauty of God's self-sacrificial Kingdom is a call to experience abundant life (Jn 10:10). Yes, we must die to the self-centered part of us that is in bondage to the hoarding-god. But if we will crucify that old enslaved self, Jesus promises we will find true life.

Yes, Greg comes off a little soft on the sin of homosexuality. Still, he makes his point. Our Lord offers us an Emancipation Proclamation from our deadly slavery to greed. "Outrageous generosity" should characterize every one of us who claims to be a follower of Jesus. The believer is both a pauper and a plutocrat (see 2 Cor. 6:10). Because we have nothing, and because all we have belongs to God and we are only stewards of it, we can escape the miser's worries about hanging on to everything in our lives. And, because we belong to God and are joint-heirs with the Son and have everything, we never need fret about our resources. We have all the advantages and none of the disadvantages of being both poor and rich.

As everyone knows, I insist upon a complete dichotomy between the kingdom of this world and the kingdom of God, and that the kingdom of God is advanced only through powerless, self-sacrificing love. This is not a kingdom that fits anywhere in Constantinian Christianity since it is transnational. So if my poor brothers and sisters in Africa need help, it is my obligation to do whatever I can to help them. Why should we abdicate this responsibility to governments and NGOs?

I think it's high time we let the Spirit of God start to do His work of generosity in our hearts!

6:24 PM Good news! One of my doctoral students, Alex Stewart, has just received word that his paper titled "Cosmology, Eschatology, and Soteriology in Hebrews: A Synthetic Analysis" will be published in the Bulletin for Biblical Research. Congratulations Alex.

6:20 PM N. T. Wright lectured at Baylor University on the subject of "Paul and Caesar." Go here to listen to his Parchman lectures (scroll down to the bottom). The Christian's attitude toward "the powers that be" is always a crucial question. The Caesar cult and the imperial ideology that went along with it was the fastest growing religion in the ancient world. It's just possible that we are facing a similar phenomenon today.

6:15 PM Seven reasons why I love the book of Hebrews:

  • It exalts Jesus as our great leader. I therefore dare not exalt any human leader above Him.

  • It reminds us that Jesus is the final revelation of God. I therefore dare not exalt any human writing above the Scriptures.

  • It shows us that Jesus is the greatest catholic priest the world has ever known. I therefore dare not look to any human to mediate my relationship with God.

  • It depicts Christianity as a pilgrimage. I therefore dare not live as if this world were my home.

  • It emphasizes the "obedience of faith" (a leading Pauline subject). I dare not think that orthodoxy is sufficient without orthopraxy.

  • It reveals that suffering is a necessary part of the Christian experience. I therefore dare not seek to avoid costly sacrifice while serving Jesus.

  • It shows me that there is no place in the will of God for slavish obeisance to religion. I therefore dare not place human traditions above fidelity to Jesus and His ways.

Is this not the heart of Christianity?

6:07 PM Finally! I've found another human being who holds to the Pauline authorship of Hebrews. Take a look at this essay by Gary Crampton. I love this quote about the much-disputed verse in chapter 2 (2:3):

Second, there is the alleged problem of Hebrews 2:3, which reads "how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him." According to William Hendriksen, "about the last thing Paul would ever say is found in Hebrews 2:3. He emphasized the fact that he had received his gospel directly from Christ."[1][39] But the author of this verse does not say that he received his gospel from the other apostles. What he says is that it "was confirmed [ebebaiothe] to us by those who heard  Him." And as Reymond explains, this implies "that he was already in possession of the message at the time of its confirmation to him." And this "confirmation" could have taken place in Paul's first visit to Jerusalem when he met with Peter and James (Galatians 1:18-19); or it could have occurred on the visit he describes in Galatians 2:1-10.

Yet we are told that Heb. 2:3 is one of the strongest indications that Paul could not have written Hebrews! Go figure.

Below: The only other two people in the universe who believe that the apostle Paul authored Hebrews.

Tuesday, November 10

6:58 AM Have you noticed how John Bunyan called his book Pilgrim's Progress despite all the difficulties and dangers he faced? I love that. My Bethel Hill Greek students have faced plenty of difficulties yet they endured to the end. Not the "bitter" end I hope! The payoff was sight-reading two chapters from 1 John last night. Amen! You guys have done a splendid job. All I did was stand on the sidelines and shout, "Hang in there! You can do it!"

I have to admit that I admire such stick-to-it-ness. So many of us fail to finish what we begin. I should know. I'm a much-decorated veteran of the war of sloth before I resigned my commission a few years ago. What's more, my students are, for the most part, "laypeople" who flexed their muscles and accomplished a task of heroic dimensions. Just think -- they could have stayed at home on Monday nights and sat in front of the one-eyed idol or else taken a course in "How the Willow Creek Model Compares with the Saddleback Model." Make no mistake -- we reap what we sow. When it comes right down to it, that's a pretty basic principle of life.

I pray that my students will now flesh out their learning in the crucible of daily living -- not just reading about "eternal life" and "brotherly love" but putting their faith into practice. To each one of you I say: If this course in Greek helps you become a wiser and more obedient follower of Jesus, your efforts and mine will have been more than amply rewarded.   

6:52 AM Surprise! Surprise! Last night we had company for the first time in a good while. My, how Micah has grown. (He's wearing the head covering.) Thanks, Rondeaus, for the visit. You brought a jumble of joy to our humble household last night.


Monday, November 9

10:55 AM Nijay Gupta is seeking commentary recommendations on Philippians in German. I've given him my suggestions. Why not add yours to the list?

10:40 AM The Wall remembered:

Die erdrückenden Massen stürmten nicht nur die Mauer in Berlin, nein sie drangen viel weiter vor. Sie drangen in mein Wohnzimmer ein, in meine heile Welt und zerschlugen alles, was ich mir bis dato erkämpft hatte. Mein Wohnzimmer war angefüllt mir euphorischen Menschen und es gab kein Platz mehr für mich. Ich fühlte mich erdrückt und an die Wand gepresst. Auch die Freude meines Freundes konnte ich nicht teilen. “Ist das nicht toll?” wollte er mich mit seiner Begeisterung mitreißen, doch ich war noch nicht so weit. Ich stand an der Wand und konnte nur noch einen Gedanken zulassen: “Wie komme ich hier raus?”

Read Heute vor 20 Jahren. Touching story.

10:26 AM Eastern University announces an opening in Public Policy and Christian Ethics at their Palmer Seminary.

10:18 AM Just came down with a bad sinus headache. Ugh.

Must be a storm brewing. Sure enough, the forecast is calling for rain tomorrow and Wednesday. Who needs a meteorologist when one has a built-in barometer? 

P.S. Thank you, Lord, for Maxalt tablets.

10:10 AM Speaking of German, this map shows the German-speaking population of the United States in 1872. And this is before the influx of Germans during the twentieth century. I wonder how many of their descendants can still speak the mother tongue.

9:57 AM If you haven't yet read Barth's Church Dogmatics (in German, naturally), here's a site to help you get started. I found the link here. I performed this Herculean task back in the early 80s while a student in Basel. You can't consider yourself edumacated till ya done it, folks.

8:36 AM Digital doctoral dissertations? Dastardly or delectable? You decide. But Stanford already says yes.

8:18 AM Another thing, Greek guys and gals. If you haven't acquired a copy of A. T. Robertson's "Big Grammar" yet you should. As this author astutely observes:

Though unaware of the papyri discoveries that have happened since 1919, Robertson's work is important for his familiarity with classical Greek and Latin and his awareness of the work of 19th century Greek grammarians. He was also able to draw upon some of the early work of such noted grammarians like Blass, Deissmann, Moulton, and Burton.

I require Robertson's gigantic tome whenever I teach Weightlifting 301 -- er, Advanced Greek Grammar.

8:11 AM Greek students, we're on for tonight at The Hill. Come prepared to sight read a couple chapters in 1 John. In the meantime, you might find this ditty interesting.

7:32 AM Quote of the day #3:

When the church janitor doesn’t clean the church well enough, the congregation feels justified in criticizing him or her because they paid them to clean. When the landscaper doesn’t mow the grass just right, the congregation feels warranted in complaining because, after all, he was paid to do the job the way they instructed him. Likewise, when a pastor is paid, the congregation feels that they have control of him in a similar manner. Instead of being accountable to the Lord, he becomes for all practical purposes accountable to the congregation.

Read Pastors and Churches and Salaries (including the comments section, whence cometh the above quote).

By the way, churches seeking to make changes in this area are in for a rough ride. My advice? "Don't be like a horse or mule, without understanding" (Psalm 32:9). A horse is an impetuous animal, always wanting to take off at top speed. A donkey is an obstinate animal, always wanting to dig in its heels. If we want to serve the Lord together we can't dash ahead in impetuous enthusiasm or lag behind in obstinate unbelief. Congregations must be willing to seek the Lord, ask Him for understanding, and patiently wait on His leading -- and then obey without hesitation.

7:28 AM T. C. Robinson joins the CEB discussion. I may have a crack at a sample passage or two myself.

7:26 AM Quote of the day #2:

When it comes to financial stewardship, we see the first-century Christians giving cheerfully according to their ability—not dutifully out of a command. Giving in the early church was voluntary. And those who benefited from it were the poor, orphans, widows, sick, prisoners, and strangers.

Read more.

6:58 AM How's Becky? Today she has her blood work done again. If all's well, next  Monday she'll have her third chemo treatment. In the midst of it all she carries on our Ethiopia work tirelessly. The other day someone asked me how my wife was doing. "Still serving the Lord," I said. And what a joy to be able serve with her. After all, isn't that what marriage is all about? Serving Jesus together. For better or for worse. In sickness and in health. Till death do us part. What a great life partner Becky is. I love serving Jesus with her. Now that she's sick, I don't have to care for her. I get to.

Have you, in your marriage, settled the issue of who will be Lord and Master of your married life? Have you surrendered all of your rights, your expectations, your dreams to Him?

6:45 AM William Bennett, who served in the Reagan and Bush I White Houses, once said, "Look, we ran out of steam in the second half of the second Reagan administration. We'd been in office for 12 years. We got tired. We forgot why we came."

Well, what about Mr. Obama? He promised to end the war and win the peace. Yet he's about to make a politically and militarily disastrous move in Afghanistan. Newsweek is asking, Is Obama Keeping His Promises? My own sense -- and I hope I am dead wrong -- is that the president has already become complacent about his promises.

He's surrounded himself with tone-deaf foreign policy advisers who revile the liberals who helped elect him. Everything about Mr. Obama seems three steps behind, a strange phenomenon given the fact that he campaigned on the promise of "change." I'm afraid if he waits much longer to pull out of Afghanistan he'll go the way of LBJ. Remember? Johnson's economic agenda was sidetracked by his aggressive foreign policy agenda in Vietnam.

Although Barack Obama is a man in constant motion -- always traveling, and that includes (thank God) visiting the families of the fallen -- his critics are accusing him of being detached from the electorate and doing the 2-step by caving to the militarists. He may not conduct the war with the same noir and bullying tone of his predecessor, but I wonder if he's learned the lesson that America can't champion freedom at the point of a gun barrel.

It's astonishing to me how far we have come -- or fallen -- as a nation in only one year. Makes one think of a rudderless boat cut adrift and swept along with the current.

6:32 AM Quote of the day:

"I ministered to you" is condescending. I’m up here and you’re down here, lucky to receive whatever I am giving you. It creates an invisible social barrier that tells the person that they can not relate on the same level. It is also focused on what you are doing, and not on knowing the person. Many times this is just exactly what both parties really want. Both afraid of what kind of involvement really knowing the other person might require. It’s scary because the deeper you go, the dirtier you can get. But only in the fleshing out of a relationship, however awkward it may be, can real discipleship begin.

Read "We ministered to them."

Sunday, November 8

5:53 PM I recall a message I gave in a church long ago. I had just finished and the congregation was filing out. A few people stopped to chat -- some expressing appreciation and others their disagreement. It was obvious that some people were even disgusted with me. My talk was not especially provocative. I had tried to explain, as simply as I could, what the Bible teaches on a certain topic and how our ecclesiastical traditions in this area are unbiblical (though not necessarily sinful). Whenever one does this, the response is inevitable and predicable.

I suppose the greatest lesson I learned that day was a healthy cynicism. If what I am saying is simply my "cause," a personal crusade, then I suppose people have every right to be dismissive. If the issue depends on my brilliance or my mode of argumentation, then God help us all. You can't just presume that people will give you the benefit of the doubt when it comes to your motives. I suppose the greatest pain comes from critics who have no intention of getting involved or opening their Bibles. In this case, you can't force things. You must fight your battle on your knees and watch God give the victory.

It would be pure sentimentality to think that our churches can be changed easily and without pain on the part of our congregations. It would be worse sentimentality to think that they can be changed without some personal pain on our parts as leaders. It is realism to think that pain is a reasonable price for both sides to pay.

1:12 PM Robert Frost:

I'm not a teacher, but an awakener.

Awesome! Teachers have to walk softly and not try to "control" everything. We have to allow the Holy Spirit to inspire godly creativity to bubble up. Students, are you just going through the motions, just "doing your assignments," or are you allowing God to steer, arrange, and direct your every task? Scholarship can't come first. Assignments can't come first. You need to draw on the deep resources of the Spirit of God.

My advice? Pray about every exam, every quiz, every assignment, every term paper BEFORE you do them. Surrender your heart and not only your mind to the Lord. Dip into the artesian wells of His provision, security, and satisfaction.

Absolute, personal dependence upon God must take precedent over all else.

12:10 PM A huge "congratulations" to Michael and his wife who are adopting a son from "Utopia" (Ethiopia). What a blessing from the hand of God. Blessings on all of you.

8:59 AM Blogging is a delightfully paradoxical medium. But the best part to me is fellowshipping with the saints all over the world. Today is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. For a helpful resource, go here. Only as we are willing to share the burden will we share the blessing.

Oh, here's a piece of good news from Ethiopia.

8:12 AM I've got a lot of sympathy for the translators of the Common English Bible, who are seeking reader input. Translating the Bible is like nailing Jell-O to the wall. In fact, it's the spookiest business in the world. Translating the ISV New Testament was one unsettling piece of work, let me tell you. Thankfully I had lots of help. Anyhoo, why not give the CEB translators your feedback? The Bible is the most valuable asset we have as Christians. You may be thinking to yourself, "What have I got to offer? I'm no Bible scholar." My answer is "Plenty." Let's push and prod and make sure their plea for help doesn't go unheeded.

7:57 AM Did you know that today is Orphan Sunday? I didn't either. Go here for the details. Here's a pic of our daughter Emebet.

She lived on the streets of Addis for years after being thrown out of her home by her parents. She is a beautiful young woman -- musically talented as all get out too. She is a committed Christian and growing daily in her faith.

Emebet, we love you!

7:45 AM In a delightful and instinctually introspective piece over at the Christian Century, Duke Divinity School professor Paul Griffiths bares his souls and tells us how his mind has changed. If you care to immerse yourself in the solitary pleasure of reading this morning, take a look at it.

It got me to thinking: Who am I really, and how has my mind changed? So, with all due apologies, I'm gonna wax a bit introspective with you this morning.

To begin with, I'm not a prophet or the son of a prophet. I even work for a non-profit organization. (Dumb joke.) The risk in being a prophet is too great. In the Old Testament, if you slipped up, you were stoned.

What I am is a recovering drug addict. My drugs were wealth, status, and happiness. But a few years ago God began to do a work of grace in my life. He led me to get out of the ownership business and into the stewardship business. I discovered that one's wants can be satisfied either by producing much or desiring little. I also discovered that the love of the Body of Christ is the most powerful weapon God has to change society.

I used to be involved in politics. I used to think we could win the culture war by our political movements. Then I began to read the Gospels. In them I encountered someone who took upon Himself the miserable condition of a lowly human being, not the life of a successful CEO but that of a pauper. He descended to the bottom of the abyss, and then called upon His followers to do the same. He showed us that the way of God is the way of suffering and sacrifice.

I have no problem with politics, but it's not the kingdom. Scripture says that because God loves us we are now to go out and tell other men and women and love them in turn. It is this kingdom, and its King, that now give meaning to my life. Of course, I am also a husband, a father, a professor, an author, a farmer; like everyone else, I have certain ephemeral duties. I acknowledge my responsibility for failing to live up to the highest standards in each of these arenas of life. Entering the narrow gate, I find there is just enough room for my weak and naked soul. Thank God for His mercy!

I have found that many Christians know the Word of God but lack fidelity to it. Jesus is a subject to be discussed but not a person to be enjoyed -- and obeyed. That was me for many years. In the future I would like people to be able to say that I am a man of the Word and a man of his word.

Recently I read of a female flight attendant who was being treated rudely by a male passenger. Every time he saw her he gave her a piece of his mind. Another passenger, a Christian, walked back to the galley and talked to the flight attendant. He said, "You know, I've been watching how you've handled that obnoxious fellow sitting across from me. I'm always looking for someone doing a good job. American Airlines should be proud of you. Can I have your name? I'd like to write the company and let them know how much I appreciate you."

"Oh," she said, "I don't work for American Airlines."

"Oh, really?"

"No, I represent the Lord Jesus Christ."

Badda Bing!

Who am I?

A representative of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Saturday, November 7

5:18 PM Quote of the day #4:

Pastors are exalted in evangelicalism and are simultaneously asked to shoulder the burden of ministry for an entire congregation. They are expected to be there for every other member of the church while at the same time being a perfect father and husband.

It is little wonder that pastors are depressed, frustrated, quitting "the ministry" or even in some extreme cases committing suicide.
We have created an impossible culture combining impossibly high expectations for pastors and simultaneously isolating them.

Read Carrying the burden alone.

5:04 PM Just fed the cows. Grade AAA Nathan-grown orchard grass and fescue. The calves are almost weaned I see.

Right now B is making enchiladas for supper. She's had another good day, though her white count is starting to bottom out again. Life has become so "daily" if you know what I mean :)

2:54 PM Islam, for obvious reasons, is in the news these days. Christians must understand the awesome ramifications of their claim to be followers of Jesus, who had a great deal to say about prejudice and bigotry. We cannot engage in scapegoating and at the same time claim to follow the one who not only taught against racism but who also entered the racial ghetto of Samaria and ministered to a Samaritan woman. The same Jesus totally disregarded class. He loved tax collectors and sinners, the rich and the poor. Christians are to be different from the rest of the world. Jesus set the example. He treated those of other religions and racial backgrounds with a sensitivity and balance that was truly amazing given the times in which He lived. I urge all of us to strive to imitate His example. 

2:33 PM There is a price to be paid for following Jesus. But it is nothing compared to the price He paid for us.

When I was hospitalized for malaria they provided a gown for me.

When Jesus was crucified they tore off His garments.

When I entered the ER they greeted me warmly.

When Jesus was tried they said, "Crucify Him, crucify Him!"

When I had a headache they gave me medicine.

When Jesus was crucified they gave Him a crown of thorns.

When I got thirsty they gave me fruit juice.

When Jesus got thirsty they gave Him vinegar and gall.

When I got tired they gave me a bed to sleep on.

When Jesus was crucified they gave Him a cross to die on.

When I needed fluids they put an IV in my arm.

When Jesus was crucified they drove nails through His hands.

"This is My commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you." No words could possibly put our responsibility more strongly!

2:05 PM What hath the revolution in church music wrought? Worship wars. And it's mostly unnecessary. Every major change in church music finds its critics and its supporters.

"Majesty" was once brand new to me. Now no one under 25 even knows it. It's safe to say that praise choruses are here to stay. This has happened, as Charbonneau put it a century ago, "by the sheer force of circumstance." As long as modern choruses are God-focused and theologically sound, I have no problem with them whatsoever.

However unconscious, involuntary, well-meaning, and with the best of wishes, the insistence that everyone in the church act the same way is doomed to failure. It can only produce diabolical discord. I tell you, I've just about had it with solemn, grandiloquent condemnations of modern praise music.  

(Sermon over.)

10:20 AM Give this a read: Are Long Term Missionaries Obsolete? Some stimulating brain-food here. Lots of good take-aways, including this:

Teaching the Bible is essential but living out and modeling the Gospel before those who you want to train and disciple is also essential. Teaching without modeling is incomplete.

9:43 AM Quote of the day #3:

But you don't have to be a Christian to love "Messiah." Tens of thousands of Americans from all different social and religious backgrounds will gather in churches, concert halls and living rooms beginning in mid-December to sing all or parts of the 2 1/2 hour oratorio.

Very true. In fact, the best rendition of Handel's Messiah Becky and I ever heard was performed by a kibbutz choir in Jerusalem.

9:33 AM Huh? Amish farmers are taking government money? I thought the Amish conducted their affairs apart from the State.

9:02 AM Quote of the day #2:

Anyways, suffering for the Lord Jesus is a basic part of discipleship and is to be expected and embraced.  It comes with the cost of following Jesus – and so Paul exhorts the Philippian believers to “live in manner worthy of the gospel,” “as citizens of heaven,” standing firm in the one Spirit, striving together in unity for the sake of the gospel so they won’t have to fear those who oppose them.

Read Philippians 1:29: a theology of suffering?

8:53 AM Eric Carpenter calls our attention to a nifty map of the world's affinity groups. I'm still looking for "surfers" on the map. Talk about a subculture. And we're everywhere, even in the Virginia Piedmont. Hey, we even have our own Bible. Cowabunga, dude!

8:38 AM If at first you don't succeed, try 950 times.

8:25 AM Quote of the day: 

"(East German officials) said, 'We were ready for anything, except for candles and prayer.'"

Read The church that helped bring down the Berlin Wall.

8:14 AM Allan Bevere talks about the myth of the good old days and our selective amnesia as a culture.

Reminds me of the Israelites complaining about only having manna to eat (i.e., a miracle every day) and constantly craving the leeks, garlic, and honey they left behind in Egyptian captivity. The Scriptures portray the times in terms of emergency that calls for urgency, no matter the century we are living in. Frankly, I think American Christians are a lot flabbier than our spiritual ancestors. We seek to avoid persecution by taking the line of least resistance and living in a truce with this age. We make God a Santa Claus and use His Son for our own satisfactions. We crave earthly joy and security, but when will we seek Him alone?

7:54 AM Guttenberg is back in the news. Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, that is, the German Defense Minister.

For the first time he "von kriegsähnlichen Zuständen in Afghanistan gesprochen hatte." So writes today's Die Zeit. In other words, folks, it's a "war" over there in Afghanistan, or at least it's a "warlike" situation, not merely a peacekeeping mission. This might come as shocking news to Germans, who abhor Krieg and whose insurance companies do not pay out benefits for men and women killed in "war."

One thing's for sure. The soldiers on the ground there know it's a "war," even if the politicians prefer cowardly circumlocutions.

7:12 AM We Americans may have our Prayer of Jabez, but the Brits can top that.

Now you can enlist God's assistance in surviving rush hour stress even as He enlarges your borders. And if you do it for 40 days in a row....

7:08 AM I want to go on record to say that I pray for the troops. And when I say the troops, I mean our troops. Talk about profiles in courage. But to face death at the hands of one of your own has got to be the worst of the worst. We may never know what made Nidal Hasan turn violent. But there is a lot of wisdom in this insightful report:

An estimated 30 percent of those returning from combat suffer mental health symptoms such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress. Such problems grow worse with repeated deployments and the constant exposure to danger and the sights, smells and emotions of seeing others killed or wounded, according to Army mental health surveys.

Those who treat the mentally wounded, including doctors such as Hasan, are not immune from the symptoms. It is not uncommon for therapists who treat patients for post-traumatic stress disorder to experience some symptoms vicariously after hearing account after account of the horrors of the battlefield.

To the 53,000 service personnel stationed at Fort Hood I say: you are in my thoughts and prayers.

P.S. Please no Muslim-bashing. Hasan's actions are being condemned by the American Muslim population.

6:55 AM A congregation in central Virginia sent Becky a card with these wonderfully encouraging words:

You are continually in our prayers. Our lives have been so enriched by getting to know you and Dave. Your unconditional love of Christ and your unwavering faith even during your battle with cancer is a towering testimony to all who know you. We also praise God for your ministry in Ethiopia. We love you and will continue to keep you lifted up in prayer to our Lord.

"Your ministry in Ethiopia." What would this work look like without Becky Lynn? I hate to contemplate it. But all things are in God's trustworthy hands. He can be counted on. After all, it's really His ministry.

6:43 AM "Be content with what you have" (Heb. 13:5a). I thought of this verse while reading a discussion about a megachurch's latest building project.

What in the world did Paul mean by "Be content"? That's one heavy command.

I don't think he meant that we should never improve our physical circumstances. If that’s what he was saying, then I'm the biggest hypocrite of them all. I drive a comfortable car (rather than a jalopy), live in a comfortable home (certainly nicer than the apartment Becky and I lived in when we got married), and dress in comfortable clothing (I honestly would prefer swim trunks and t-shirts but my students might prefer otherwise).

However, there's got to be reasonable limits to what we spend on ourselves. Paul, I think, was referring to an insatiable desire to have more and better things for their own sake. There is nothing wrong with a congregation wanting to construct a new church building if the desire is to use it for kingdom purposes. Even then, however, a problem can still exist when we pay disproportionate attention to our own physical needs and comforts, overlooking Paul's injunction in another place (2 Cor. 8:13) that, when it comes to physical resources, there must be equality (isotetos) between the haves and the have-nots.

I think there's room in Christianity for divergent views of church buildings, but not for the miserable itch of "bigger is better." We now erect church buildings with grand pianos in the foyer (alongside the fountain) and glass windows overlooking lavish gardens and ponds. The non-believer on the outside might well be justified in thinking that our main investment is in this world rather than another one. Laying up treasures in two worlds at once can be a very precarious business. It's easy to forget that we must migrate soon. Our real treasure is not here, and neither should our hearts be.

Once again, I'm with the sixteenth-century Anabaptists on this one (as I pointed out in chapter 3 of The Jesus Paradigm). With wistful sadness I look back on their simple, unadorned "meeting halls" without pulpits or pews, stages or steeples. In such a place one might well conclude that the Christian is truly a pilgrim and stranger on earth.

Build, then, what you will. But don't let your building become an idol. Remember that the night is far spent, that the Day is at hand, and that judgment begins with the household of God.

Friday, November 6

8:36 PM Here's a great quote from the Bethel Hill blog:

Wearing a mask doesn't help in church. You'll still get rubbed the wrong way in some's just a matter of time. Let the Spirit give you the courage to remove the mask and trust His love in the midst of His people. And then go the next step to trust His Hand in shaping you (& others) to fit perfectly together.

Becky's talking about the fact that only God can fit such diverse "building blocks" together in His temple the church. In fact, that's one of the things I love most about being a Christian -- our diversity. That's not something to be tolerated but celebrated!

1:06 PM Check out my colleague Alvin Reid's latest book: Evangelism Handbook, published by B & H.

Sure, as a snake lover he takes Mark 16:18 a bit too literally, but I love Alvin's passion for people and for the Gospel. I'm humbled to be on the SEBTS faculty with him.

Go here to download a sample chapter.

12:48 PM It's happening earlier and earlier. I'm seeing ads all over the web promoting Christma$. And it's not even Thanksgiving. Whatever are we thinking? It's Jesus' birthday, for crying out loud. A year ago one spender got wise. She emailed us to say she stopped buying gifts for her grandkids and was giving money instead to Ethiopia in their names. I'm seeing this happening more and more. It's a classic story line in literature: self-indulgent spender confronts mistaken assumptions about wealth. Glad to see incurious shoppers finally waking up to the downside of seasonal capitalism. American children need more "things" like Liberace needed more rings.

I know this is but a skirmish in a much larger Kulturkampf, but have we never read Matt. 6:19-21?

9:17 AM I just received via email my copy of the Society for New Testament Studies latest newsletter, which contains this notice:

The Society received with regret news of the deaths of the following members: Profs.S. Agourides, J. L. Blevins, H. Chadwick, B. Corsani, D. Dungan, P.Grelot, M. Hengel (former President), J. Heriban, H. W. Hoehner, K. Kertelge, N. Q.King, E. Larsson, E. Lövestam, H. Nakagawa, W. Schmithals, D. Scholer, G.N. Stanton (former President), K. Sullivan, J. Sweet, J. L. de Villiers, and E. S.Wehrli. Members observed a minute’s silence in memory of these scholars.

Of the deceased I knew three well: David Dungan, Harold Hoehner, and David Scholer. It is perhaps impossible for younger scholars to grasp the brevity of life, but notices such as this one are a stark reminder of our mortality. Surely this makes living for Christ our constant priority!

P.S. Regretfully I will have to miss next year's meeting in Berlin after all. I will be in Ethiopia for 6 weeks at that time.

8:54 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Making a Mockery of the Great Commission.

7:40 AM Jim West puts the "grave" in gravitas, calling the use of federal bailout money by corporations to lobby Congress "profound absurdity." The root problem, of course, is our complete ignorance of that little scrap of paper we barely discussed in eight grade history classes, the well-nigh forgotten United States Constitution and its limitations on the federal use of power.

7:34 AM The Associated Baptist Press has run a story called Merritt, Gushee: On creation care, evangelicals must move toward "we." This quote struck me:

The way Christians started to talk about God began to change. Instead of God being a loving being who wrapped himself in flesh in order to bring peace to the entire cosmos ... many spoke of God as an American patriot who has a disproportionate stake in our federal government's success. This God was not building a global kingdom on Earth, or an other-worldy kingdom beyond Earth. This God was building and blessing an American kingdom.

For what it's worth, I've commented here, with (unhappy) implications for the Easter Bunny.

7:27 AM Matt Evans interviews James Crossley of Sheffield University. My favorite quote:

I think a lot of NT scholarship is sectarian. I don’t necessarily mean this in religious terms but rather there are too many distinctive groups which tend to listen to themselves alone.

Crossley is right. New Testament scholarship has been fragmented and atomized for far too long. And a huge part of the problem is over-specialization in one's doctoral program. Just because you may have written your dissertation in John does not make you a "Johannine scholar." I'm all for our students becoming generalists every bit as much as specialists in their studies.

7:19 AM The great C. S. Lewis once dismissed the ability of faith to overcome bereavement. "Don't come talking to me about the consolations of religion," he wrote in A Grief Observed, "or I shall suspect that you don't understand." His wife Joy, of course, had just died from cancer.

With all due respect to the great author, I have found the opposite to be true. Jesus Christ has been, in fact, my only source of consolation in these difficult days.

In the introduction Madeleine L'engle writes, "I am grateful to Lewis for having the courage to yell, to doubt, to kick at God...." Kick at God? I hope I wouldn't kick a dog let alone my Creator and Redeemer. The devil would have us doubt the Word of God, and how subtle are the devises by which he raises questions as to what God has said. Like John the Baptist, Lewis fell to the record low of wondering if his hopes in Christ had been misplaced. Thankfully we serve a God who is patient with troubled Johns in prison. I pray that I will never come to the point of wondering if my confidence in His triumph over sin and death has been vain. If I do, may God help me still. 

Thursday, November 5

5:51 PM Why we have a bird bath:

5:40 PM Update on Becky: She looks and sounds real good. We just finished having the most delicious supper -- curry/chicken/broccoli over rice. Becky cooked it. She had her blood work done today; we'll get the results tomorrow. She seems to be recovering well from the flu, and thus far the Lord has preserved me from getting it, so there is much to be grateful for.

4:15 PM Viterbo University (yeah, the name was new to me too) announces an opening in Servant Leadership/Religious Studies. However, isn't a "Master's in Servant Leadership" an oxymoron?

3:55 PM Just in from the Galana clinic: The reservoir tanks; preparation for installation; our new ambulance.


Lord willing, the water harvesting system will be fully installed and functional when our teams arrive next July.

By the way, we are still collecting items for the clinic. If you're interested, please take a look at Becky's essay called Shopping List for the Galana Clinic in Burji, Ethiopia.

3:43 PM This book arrived yesterday:

Its author was pinned down with Reno's men during the battle. Taylor became an avid student of the debacle and completed his manuscript in 1917. Greg Martin acquired it in 1995. Eyewitness accounts are more than just interesting; they put you "there" in a way other histories cannot. Will begin reading it tonight.

3:10 PM Martin Niemöller declared several years ago that when the Heidelberg Confession was being formulated the burning question was "Who can find a merciful God?" Today, he said, the question is "Who can find a merciful neighbor?"

How thankful I am for the mercy that God has shown me. I am a very great sinner. But I am also a great recipient of mercy. If we Christians are truly receivers of God's mercy, then we are under an obligation to become dispensers of mercy. That's why my heart is broken for the millions in Ethiopia who have never heard about Jesus. It is an endless task -- this cataloging of missional reality.

Have you reached the point in your own Christian life where you can say, definitively and without hesitation, "Take the World But Give Me Jesus"? Quoting Scripture or debating the end times will do little to sooth a broken spirit caused when one sees one's father dying from tribal warfare. That was, I suppose, the nub of my chapel message today.

Please forgive me, students, if I was too harsh on the academy today. But I really do believe that people can be educated beyond their intelligence. The guild of New Testament scholarship is bankrupt today because we have become ingrown and have forgotten the goal of all New Testament instruction -- love from a pure heart. Believe me, I don't enjoy having to point this out. Someday, as a result, I will probably be disowned by the academy. "The nail that sticks out is hammered down" (Japanese proverb).

I care not, frankly. Christ demands that we put people over prestige or pulpits or publications. Do others really know that we love them? By our deeds and not just by our words? I suppose this is why Jesus never walked up to anyone and said, "I love you." You see, if you have to tell people that you love them, they tend to suspect your genuineness. Evangelicals, let's stop just saying that we love the nations. They can judge whether we love them or not.

My lecture today was both a personal confession and an accusation. Others have done both far better. Right now, though, this is where I am. I hurt inside. I hurt for the Muslims of Alaba, the Orthodox of Gondar, the warring Gujis of southern Ethiopia. This does not mean that I care to be relieved of the pain. Far from it. I am impressed that there is so much more I could do for them -- and others -- if I were not so self-centered and un-Christ-like. God have mercy on me.

It would be far easier to write or speak about such matters from a comfortable distance. I know how to do that. I did it for years -- and despised myself afterwards. I anticipate the charge that much of what I write and say is overstated. That's quite possible, of course. I will leave that for others to decide. Ultimately it is for each one of us to decide if we will accept the Savior's words: Go everywhere and tell everyone. But at least let's not pretend He never said that.

P.S. Because of the sensitive nature of my lecture (focusing on the persecution of the church in Ethiopia), I requested that the audio not be published on the seminary website. Hence if you look for it there you will not find it.

Tuesday, November 3

8:48 PM "By this is My Father glorified," said Jesus, "if you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples" (John 8:31). Living as obedient disciples of Jesus -- that's the theme of my latest book, which has just arrived at Amazon.

As James puts it, "Be doers of the Word and not hearers only, so deceiving yourselves" (James 1:22). Knowing the truth is not enough; there must be doing as well.

Someone once admitted to me, "My German is good, except for the verbs." Can you imagine trying to speak a language without its verbs? It is idle for us to claim to be Christians without showing it in our lives.

That is my goal. Is it yours?

8:30 PM She's home! YEAH! Her white count was a whopping 4.7, so they loosed her and let her go. And her fever is gone as well. I consider this is a DIRECT answer to your prayers. Nothing could be clearer! I can't tell you what your emails have meant to us. Satan twists, warps, bends, and distorts the truth, but oh so many of you have reminded us that our "thorn in the flesh" is really the realm in which God has scope and power to operate. Christ has indeed been our Good Shepherd. Without Him, I can assure you, these two little sheep of His would be nothing but mutton!

I must add a rider to that statement. I am totally exhausted. It will take another miracle for me to teach my classes and give my chapel lecture on Thursday. That too is in God's hands. But right now I'm so happy for Becky. She enjoys her home, and nobody deserves its blessings more than she does. I am speechless, struck dumb by a sense of the awesome mysterious power of God.

I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me/Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me.

Our love and thanks to all,

Dave and Becky Lynn

7:24 AM Clifford Kvidahl offers an excellent piece on the exordium to Hebrews. In my opinion, no other New Testament writing is so immaculately crafted to deliver a one-two punch to religion.

My two cents here.

7:16 AM Dabbled last night in my WW II escape stories. They are tales of great human resilience and community in times of crisis. Escaping involves instinctive altruism and resourcefulness -- two admirable traits that, in my book, are in short supply today. The big question is: Will I live up to that standard in my own conduct?

Stay tuned....

7:12 AM Will teach my classes today, then go to be with Becky in Chapel Hill. They've begun giving her meds to up her white count. Praying it works. Until her white cells go up and her fever goes down she'll be an absentee farmer. 

Monday, November 2

4:15 PM Look whose essay (.pdf) made the front page of the latest issue of SIM Roots.

3:56 PM Congratulations -- again -- to Dr. Jim, a blogging friend whom I've never met in person. Loud and blunt, he stomps through the world wide web, offering his readers a steady potpourri of wordsmithian talent. I think I understand the passion that others understand as froideur. Jim enjoys a good challenge. For him the blogosphere is -- gasp! -- a provocative medium and not a sedative. True, something about the slapping around can get a bit tiresome, and I say this as a huge fan of the Sainted One. It would be a serious mistake, however, to read into his childish misdemeanors a lack of genuine Menschlichkeit. Jim has a precise eye -- hence the precision of the shocks he delivers to our nervous systems.

If anyone's gonna catch Jim, they's a gonna have to blog often -- and well.

3:12 PM Just back from UNC Women's Hospital. Becky was readmitted on Saturday with a fever. Today she was diagnosed with Influenza Type A. The results from her tests for Type B and H1N1 have not yet come back. She's on Tamiflu and tons of antibiotics. The greatest danger is of course pneumonia. I've been staying in her room but came home to clean up, check on the animals, and get Becky some needed items.

How am I doing? So far no flu symptoms, praise God. Otherwise I'm a bit tired. Sunday morning was cold and rainy. I awoke with a grave drowsiness. I prayed to the Lord, then prayed with Becky. As I walked to the hospital parking lot to get into Becky's car and drive to my speaking engagement, I felt myself flicker. Then I saw the personalized license plate Becky had chosen for herself:


...and thought, "Yes, it is." God is sustaining us every step of the adventure. Your prayers and love have been a HUGE part of that.

I'll be at the farm until Greek class tonight at The Hill. Students, see you at 7:00 sharp.

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