September 2007 Blog Archives
Saturday, September 29
5:43 PM I want to thank all of my students who made the long trek from Wake Forest to be with us today. You honored us with your presence, and we enjoyed meeting you and your families. Nathan took a big group on a tour of his part of the farm, but I couldn't walk that far so I was unable to get any photos of their jaunt. I didn't have to go far to get a picture of the ducks, however.
At mealtime we divided up into about 8 different groups, including the one shown here in the formal dining room.
Somehow I ended up at the table with the Koreans and Cambodians. Winder how that happened (heehee)?
No Greek Scrabble this year, though this interesting board game had my rapt attention.
A special blessing was meeting this family from the Caribbean.
If any of you missed today's event, don't worry. We'll do it again next semester.
Friday, September 28
9:03 PM Just back from enjoying ice cream on the front porch and watching the full moon rise in the eastern sky.
8:45 PM As promised, I've posted the answers to yesterday's New Testament quiz below (scroll down to see them). How did you do?
6:12 PM Check out these thoughtful blog posts on The Wright Paul and J. Muddiman on the Authorship of Ephesians. Although I wrote my Basel dissertation on Paul, I am by no means a Pauline scholar. I did have to face an important question, however, when I began my writing: whether or not to include in my research the so-called deutero-Pauline epistles. In the end I included the Pastoral Epistles as Pauline because that's where the evidence led me. In fact, in my Doktor Vater's written evaluation of my dissertation before it was published Bo Reicke went out of his way to commend my work, not for espousing Pauline authorship necessarily, but for espousing Pauline authorship only after a through examination of the evidence pro et contra. My advice to all New Testament doctoral students who are enrolled in a major university: do not compromise your convictions in order to have your work accepted. Don't be like the student who once told me that the only reason he espoused Markan priority in his dissertation was so that he could graduate and get a doctorate!
5:44 PM Our work is almost done. Becky is now processing the last of our tomatoes. While we were in the kitchen just now we tried to figure out how many Student Days we've had. We began when we bought our first home in La Mirada, CA, back in 1982. Since we have two events a year (one per semester) that figures out to be about 50 Student Days. When we lived near Oxford we would average 150-175 people. Out here in Virginia the number is about half that size. The numbers don't matter to us. I just enjoy getting to meet my students' families -- not to mention tasting the delicious food they bring. I see one student is bringing a Korean main dish and another student is preparing a Cambodian dessert. Becky will be serving up some Ethiopian food. Now how about some Hawaiian poi and lau laus!
1:23 PM Almost forgot. Here's a fantastic quote I heard on the BBC while driving to work early Tuesday morning. "We read because it makes life more enjoyable. Or at least more tolerable." I couldn't have said it better.
1:10 PM We're having a blast with our work. Everyone has a list of things to do. I'm about 2/3rds of the way finished with mine. Nate's gone off to Oxford for another load of horse manure. Becky is cleaning off the porch chairs. The weather is absolutely perfect for working outdoors. The only problem is the dryness. In fact, this morning one of our calves walked right across a dried-up corner of the pond and "escaped." He was coaxed back into the pasture by some oats Nate had handy. Always something interesting happening on a farm.
7:33 AM I'm sitting here at the computer looking out at a beautiful sunrise and meditating on the just-as-beautiful teaching of 1 Corinthians chapter 1. That's where I found myself in my morning devotionals. The chapter is all about worldly wisdom, what we might call education. I love teaching. I love educating young people. But I believe it's a blunder of the first magnitude to think that education has any inherent value. We saw how puerile and pedantic education can be this week in New York City, when the president of a great nation and the president of a great American university both made fools of themselves, one through ignorance, and the other through arrogance. Both should have kept their mouths shut. The ancient Greeks called this hubris, and they said that hubris always leads to a nemesis. That's true on a national scale as well as on a personal one. Education can easily to lead a nemesis. Education is like the tree in the Garden of Eden. What more could man want? It was good, pleasant, even useful, offering aesthetic pleasure and intellectual stimulation. What could be better? Yet we all know the outcome. The same can sadly be said for education. Whereas educational status divides the world and society, in the church the opposite is true. In Christ there is no Greek or Scythian, no scholar or barbarian. Christianity is a patently revolutionary and retrogressive force, while the opposite is the driving force behind modernism. If the church in America remains static, it is because it has lost the basic meaning of the Christian life, which is to serve rather than be served and to give rather than to get. This service is both horizontal (among men) and vertical (of men to God) but either way it occurs only by sacrifice and lowliness of mind (tapeinophrosune). Wherever we find the worship of worldly knowledge and power -- and this is a common problem today in evangelicalism -- the church should be ready to expose it, attack it, and root it out. If the church remains silent, then all we have are Christians playing Christianity. Paul says, "You think you're wise? God will destroy your wisdom! You think you have understanding? God will set it aside! What really pleases God is the foolishness of preaching that saves those who believe." He adds, "God has made foolish the wisdom of the world." The term "make foolish" in Greek (moraino) can also be translated "make tasteless." There comes a point in your life when you just can't stomach worldly education any more. The degrees mean nothing any longer. The status means nothing any longer. Knowledge per se means nothing any longer. What matters is this: putting whatever God-given knowledge you have into practice in ways that help and serve and bless other people and glorify God. Do I live up to this ideal? Hardly. Barely. But it's my goal!
Thursday, September 27
6:12 PM Nathan and I have just decided to take Becky out for dinner tonight. She's worked very hard today preparing the slide show for this Sunday's Ethiopia presentation. She's also been hard at work in her beautiful garden. It is such a blessing to go into the back yard and see her roses and salad greens. Here's a couple of pix. Enjoy.
2:16 PM While waiting for my heel to be x-rayed today I noticed a bilingual sign on the office wall. I always enjoy seeing how English is translated into another language. Here's a sampling. The English was (16 words):
Below it was the Spanish translation (22 words):
Once again, the receptor language required more words than the source language to get the same point across. Note "with rash"(2 words) becomes "asociada con erupción de la piél" (6 words). Another reminder to me that (1) God did a good job when He messed things up and Babel and created the world's tongues, and (2) to know another language you must learn its idioms.
1:55 PM A few minutes ago I had a nice talk with one of the elders over at Grace Community Church of Magnolia, TX. They are intentional about becoming a New Testament church in many ways. I think you'll find their website informative and helpful.
1:23 PM The religion editor of the Wall Street Journal just interviewed me about a piece she's doing on tithing according to the New Testament. She had already spoken with one of our Ph.D. students, David Croteau, who now teaches at Liberty University and whose dissertation covered the topic from A to Z. For my opinion, I referred her to this piece.
12:45 PM I just got back from my annual physical. They took blood and gave me a cortisone shot for my sore heel. Other than that, I have no complaints whatsoever, thank the Lord. My goal health-wise is to remain physically fit and slim and trim. At 6 feet 4 inches, I try to stay under 225 pounds. Last year's chart showed my weight as 223. Today I weighed in at 213. I feel great except for my foot. Since I have to stay off my feet, today's goals are to work on my grammar revision and prepare for Sunday's talk on missions at Mount Tirzah Baptist Church in Charlotte Court House.
7:44 AM Here's a little brain teaser I gave my New Testament students yesterday in class to test them on their reading. (One thing you should know about the test: it was purely for fun. It's a way for me to assess how well they're doing. But I would never give a quiz like this for a grade. It's way too picky.) If you want to try your hand at it, have at it. If you can get at least 25 out of 30 correct you're doing great. The topics are taken from the book Tommy Lea and I co-wrote called The New Testament. I'll publish the answers tomorrow.
7:40 AM We’re busy this week getting the farm into shape for Saturday’s Student Day. Not that our farm ever looks pristine. God has never really giving us the desire to have the “perfect” homestead. We’ll mow at bit here and edge a bit there. We’ll spiffy up the house too. But the fact is that Rosewood is a work in progress. The climate, by the way, promises to be perfect fall weather with bright, sunny skies and a high of 79. This will be our first Student Day without a horse on the farm. I thought of this as I drove home yesterday and passed by some of the fields I used to ride in with Cody and Traveler, some near Oxford and some closer to home here in Virginia. You know what I miss most about riding? The companionship. And my horses were great companions. Both had tremendous courage, stamina, and soundness, even though Trav had much greater jumping ability. Both had "presence" and lots of intelligence. Both were also very excitable in temperament as is common in hot-blooded breeds (Arabians and Thoroughbreds). But on the whole they were completely ride-able if you knew what you were doing. And their smell? Boy, do I miss their smell. There is no other scent in the whole world like a horse's scent. Pure, primordial sweat and grit. If my horses had any weaknesses they were due to their rider's shortcomings. I never had to pull at their mouths with the bit and bridle. I recall that Cody was so intelligent and eager to please that when I gave a confusing aid he would offer all sorts of movement in the hope of producing the desired effect. All horses are loving, gentle animals by nature, spoiled only by bad treatment or careless training. I tried never to ask too much of my horses and I always tried to make our rides interesting and happy times. And they were just that. I'm very, very sorry that my students will not have the chance to meet Cody and Traveler.
Owning and riding horses is such a rewarding and fascinating process that it's been difficult for an avid equestrian like myself to give it up, but, as Solomon said, there's a time for everything under heaven. And there are still all the cows, goats, and chickens to enjoy.
7:34 AM Thursday shout out to one of my Ph.D. students and his wife, and a big “Happy Birthday” to their newborn baby girl with the beautiful name, Lydia Damaris.
7:30 AM I promised you pix of my student graders for the year, and here they are. You will never meet friendlier or more joyful people. Caxton works in the seminary IT department and hails from Kenya. Being the bumbling idiot I am when it comes to pooters, I'm sure glad to have him on my team.
Dae (also known as David) is my secret supplier of Kimchi. Korean cuisine is my absolute favorite food in the entire world, not that that had anything to do with my picking Dae to be my assistant (*cough, cough*).
With guys like these around to keep me on my toes how can I go wrong? Thanks to both of you for being willing to work with an eccentric professor on his goofy projects. One thing's for sure: you'll never be bored.
Wednesday, September 26
6:20 PM I want to thank my Lord and Master Jesus Christ, as publicly as I possibly can, for giving me and my students such a great learning experience these past two days. I am so prayerful that God would shake more and more of us out of our apathy and move us into a deeper understanding that obedience is the greatest expression of our love for Jesus. He has been showing us that the New Testament Gospels are all focused on the most incredible life ever lived. It’s almost a process of osmosis: by looking at Jesus – how He lived and talked and acted – we become more like Him. In our day Jesus is still very much at work sending forth humble disciples into the entire world to love on people and tell them there is Good News in the midst of all the depressing news we read every day. I see this when some of my students move to downtown Raleigh to plant a city church, or when they travel home for a funeral and come back to class glowing about the people that received Christ as a result of the death of their loved one, or when they open their homes to travelers and provide food and shelter for them, or when they place their testimony over their books by staying home with their wives when they “should” be in class. Tuesday was our weekly seminar in Greek linguistics and all we did was read the book of 3 John and map out its teaching about hospitality (a theme I like to talk about). We were left with a question: Do we want to become like Gaius, Diotrephes, or Demetrius – that is, people who don’t merely talk about truthing the Gospel but who live it out by opening their hearts and homes to people who are different from them (like Gaius); or people who could really care less about comfort and ease and security and are willing to get the Gospel out (like Demetrius); or else people who put advancing their own work above the work of the Gospel and who need to “in charge” (like Diotrephes)? We’ve got to decide to imitate the good and not the bad (v. 11) – and in context the “good” is simply a radical commitment to help other believers with their practical needs. I jotted this down in my Greek New Testament: “Truth without love is legalism; love without truth is libertarianism.” This has been my hope and prayer for me and my students – that we might speak the truth with a tear in our eyes, with a lump in our throat, but without a hole in our heads. And one of the best ways we can represent God’s rule on earth, says John, is by supporting fellow missionaries. That’s why I almost wept when we received an email from a family who is adopting one of our missionaries to Gondar at the tune of 50 dollars a month. Their email said: “[We] would like to adopt one of these young men. It will be a wonderful way for us to teach our children to love someone whom they haven't met…and one day if it is the Lord's will it could be possible that they might even meet in person. So sign us up for $50/month starting now! It would not surprise me if someone in our church also wanted to be involved, but we will see how the Lord leads. Thank you for your ministry to these wonderful people, and for allowing us to share in it! God has been so faithful to us, it is our prayer that we will be faithful to other believers who are burdened in ways that we may never be. We love you so very much!” I know this ministry will inch forward through the prayers and sacrifice of people like this family. Yesterday I spoke with a friend who has a passion to help the church in Ukraine. He travels there at least once a year. It was he who invited me to minister in Ukraine this past June. What a blessed time that was! I have another friend in Dallas who wants to go with me to China to minister next spring. I’ve been emailing a graduate of our seminary who works in a dangerous part of the world. He’s asked me to visit him, and I’m going to. None of these people counts his life dear unto himself (Acts 20:24). I want to echo that commitment. Not that life is not dear. Life is the most priceless possession we have. But here’s the rub: We can throw it away for temporary pleasure and spend it selfishly (like the drug addicts my wife sees all the time in the ICU), or we can count it as His and not ours and “lose what we cannot keep to gain what we cannot lose.” Life is like the corn seeds we plant every summer on the farm: to plant them is to recognize their value; to keep them is to destroy their value. The “planted” Christian does not count his life dear unto himself but unto God. The Big Question, then: Am I willing to throw my life away recklessly for the Gospel? I want to again publicly thank God for the students I see every day who are willing to do just that in a myriad of ways from traveling abroad for the Gospel or just opening their homes to strangers. They are a blessing to be around.
Tuesday, September 25
4:00 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Are You Intentional About Witnessing?
Monday, September 24
5:19 PM Quick farm update: We're almost finished cleaning our reenacting clothes, airing out all the tentage, and repacking all of our supplies. It literally takes a whole day to "recover" from a weekend event. Earlier Nate and I made a hospital visit, while Becky worked on clothes and dishes. Right now Nathan is swapping out trailers, which means we'll be spreading more manure this afternoon. If the Lord should provide us with a little more rain we might be able to get another cutting of hay this year. If not, we'll let the animals graze down what's left of the grass in the pastures. Finally, although not directly related to our farm, I did want to mention the doors Nathan hand crafted for an old church building down in Stovall, NC. He installed them last week.
Here's a close-up view. As you can see, Nathan is not your ordinary carpenter. He's a craftsman, an artisan if you like. That's just the way God made him. And here's a nice serendipity: I get to see these doors every time I drive down Hwy 15 to Oxford.
10:40 AM A big Monday morning shout out and "thank you" to the Zachary family of Snow Camp, NC, for hosting a great reenactment on their farm this weekend. We were joined by two close friends of ours who slept in Becky's tent and dressed the part to the hilt.
Here Nathan plays his 1860s pump organ at the period wedding of the captain of the 1st Kentucky infantry regiment.
A Civil War reenactment is first and foremost living history. We try to make the encampments look as authentic as possible, and that includes our equipment. Here I'm explaining to a group of school children the mechanics of the Enfield rifle. It's an authentic reproduction of the real thing in every respect.
The show battles are real crowd pleasers, and I especially enjoy watching the cavalry demonstrations. Here the Federal Calvary prepares to attack their Confederate counterparts as the Battle of Zachary Hill gets underway on Saturday. During a two-day event like this one, each side gets to win one battle and lose the other.
On Sunday I taught the Word to a large crowd of reenactors and guests. During reenactments I find my greatest satisfaction in seeing people encouraged to follow the cross of Christ (rather than any human standard or flag) with their whole heart. The reenacting community is a huge mission field and one that is best penetrated by establishing loving and caring relationships. That's true of every mission field, isn't it?
If you've never considered reenacting as an outreach for the Gospel, I would encourage you to do so. There's even an organization called Reenactors Mission for Jesus Christ that distributes period New Testaments and is intentional about ministering in the name of Jesus. I think you would enjoy the encampments, the battle scenarios, the camaraderie, and meeting and greeting the public. Besides, where else can you wear wool uniforms in 95 degree weather?
Sunday, September 23
7:12 PM We just got back, unpacked, and took our showers. The reenactment was a splendid success. At least a nine out of ten. It is also very hard work, so tonight we're gelling. I'm reading my WW II escape story (Mission Escape), and Becky's watching Pride and Prejudice.
Friday, September 21
9:05 AM The rain is falling intermittently. I thank God for every drop.
Thursday, September 20
11:58 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Me and My Ducks.
7:56 AM From the left comes this unbelievable video piece on McCain versus McCain. Call me paranoid, but I find it one chilling video.
7:52 AM Michelson Borges reviews the Spanish edition of the Da Vinci Code. His conclusion:
7:45 AM I was touched by this story about how the Veterans Administration’s suicide prevention hotline is flooded with calls.
7:42 AM I just chose my two student graders for the semester. They are Caxton Mburu from Kenya, and Dae Hyoun Yoo from South Korea. Pictures shortly.
7:40 AM Just in case you’ve been caught up in the Britney and O.J. narcosis: Big Brother now wants in the barn. This is getting crazy.
Naturally, Ron Paul opposes such nonsense -- and is willing to say so.
7:37 AM God bless Virginia Senator Jim Webb for supporting the troops.
7:32 AM We’re watching the weather closely, tracking the storm that’s hugging the coast of South Carolina. I’ll be glad to see it dump some rain on the eastern Piedmont even though we’ll be sleeping in tents over the weekend. We have reenacted in rain and even snow, and always leave the event saying to ourselves, “That’s nothing compared to what the men we are trying to represent went through during 4 arduous years.” The toughest experience we’ve had weather-wise while reenacting was probably the event at New Market in the Shenandoah Valley a few years ago. We called it “Mud Market.” It rained practically the whole time we were there. On top of everything else, our camps were located beside the Interstate. We fought without sleep and in the middle of a huge rainstorm. However, the original battle took place in the rain, so we had no complaints. Sure makes you glad to get a warm shower when you get back home though.
7:26 AM Only 11 more days till Student Day here at the farm.
7:22 AM Before I forget, if you live in or near Sebring, Florida, Becky and I will be giving an Ethiopia presentation at the SIM retirement home on Friday, Nov. 16, at 7:00 pm. Video clips, slides, the whole shebang. I’m sure you’d be welcome to attend as a guest of ours. Please email me if you plan on attending.
7:18 AM I had an interesting discussion the other day with a student. He wanted to know if I could recommend the “best” English translation of the Bible. I joked, “Your own.” What I meant was that each of us must translate the Scriptures into our own experience. The best translations of the Word of God are those not bound in leather but in human flesh. That’s what I want my life to be: a translation of God’s Word into a living epistle known and read of all men. Alas, many translations are parodies of the text. Others are private versions, not translations of the original. For example, the Bible teaches that the love of God carries with it hatred of the world. “You that love the Lord, hate evil” (Psalm 97:10). We lack a healthy hatred of hubris today because we have an improper sense of the holiness of God. We do not regard arrogance as the awful thing that cost God His Son and the Son His Life. Never has the Adversary scored a greater triumph than in leading so much of the church to tolerate what God condemns and put up with what God would put out, both in our individual lives and in our national life. I ask myself: What kind of a translation am I? And where could I use an “update”? I’m pointing three fingers at myself, folks!
7:12 AM Becky and I just celebrated our thirty-first wedding anniversary. It would take me a lot of pages to say everything I want to say about her, but I can’t thank God enough for Becky. I’m amazed at how much God has revealed of Himself to me through her. I know I will never be all that God intends for me to be, but if you see any grace or gentleness or love in my life it’s due to the way God has used Becky in my world. I know of no one who is more Spirit-filled, loving, genuinely caring, or capable than Becky. She has taught me how to love God, make my family my priority, and be on fire for missions. It is because of her that the rough edges in my life have slowly begun to be chiseled away. She’s helped me take risks, overcome obstacles, and set goals that leave me breathless. When I have knots in my life, she is there to help me get God’s perspective on things. When the fervency isn’t there she loves my anyway. In her I have a sanctuary, a safe place where I can be myself. I could go on and on. Thank you God for giving me such an incredible wife! Thank you for showing me who You are through her! And thank you, darling, for being my special friend teammate in life! I love you!
7:08 AM Reenactors are some of the greatest people I’ve ever met. This weekend I have the privilege of preaching to many of them at the period church service during our reenactment in North Carolina. I’m praying for a harvest of souls. I’m praying that believers will be challenged to give their hearts to missions. I’m praying for those who have hit rock bottom in life. I’m praying that they’ll see light in their darkness. We don’t “play church” at reenactments. This is the real deal. We’re here to do serious business with our great God.
7:00 AM Well, you learn something new every day. Yesterday a student whom I had never met before walked into my office and introduced himself. He's an avid surfer and had heard that I was from Hawaii. When I told him I used to surf, on average, about 365 days a year, he knew he had found a kindred spirit. We had a great time trading surfing stories. What did I learn from him? That New Jersey has the best surf on the East Coast (see photo below). That the island of Eleuthera in the Caribbean has perfect 10-foot waves that no one knows about. That there’s a big need for surfing evangelism here in North Carolina, and, in fact, this student wants to organize a surfing/missions club here on campus. I, of course, said I would volunteer to be the faculty advisor if it ever comes to pass. Surfers are a unique breed and a definite subculture in America. I only wish that North Carolina had more consistent surf for their sake.
Wednesday, September 19
8:19 PM Wednesday greeting to a great student of mine with whom I met yesterday for our first mentoring session of the year. We had a wonderful time of fellowship in the Lord. I sensed in him a soul athirst for God as the hart pants after the water brook. I’m glad God pours out water upon the thirsty. And in this shallow and superficial day, I’m especially glad to know that so many of my students are willing to “lose what they cannot keep to gain what they cannot lose.” May God increase their tribe.
8:12 PM My two days on campus were wonderful in all respects. Excellent spirit in all classes. Haven’t lost any Greek students to attrition – yet. Covered exegesis in New Testament. Still feel like a kid in a candy store every time I teach.
Tuesday, September 18
4:22 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Is Yet Another War Justified?
4:18 AM Last week the seminary's International Office kindly provided me with the names and nationalities of all of our international students. I requested this information because I normally choose foreign students to be my graders (personal assistants), and this semester is no exception. My secretary was gracious enough to break down the list according to nationalities. Here are the nations represented at SEBTS, starting with the country that has the most students here: South Korea, Uganda, Tanzania, Canada, South Africa, Antigua and Barbuda, and Romania. Tied for next place are Brazil, Ecuador, China, Ghana, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mexico, Panama, Russia, St. Vincent, Spain, Taiwan, and Ukraine. In all, we have 58 international students. This is a great start, but I'd like to see many more international students here. I really miss the ethnic diversity we had in Southern California at Talbot and at Golden Gate's Brea campus.
4:12 AM You are cordially invited to come out this weekend to a reenactment of the Battle of Zachary Hill in nearby Alamance County, NC. The address is 8380 Old Switchboard Road, Snow Camp, NC, 27349. Google for directions, then follow the well-placed signs. The camps open to the public at 9:00 am on Saturday and Sunday, and the show battles are scheduled for 2:30 pm on Saturday and 2:00 pm on Sunday. Admission is $5.00 for adults (children under 12 are free). There will be period speakers, live period music, tours of the Confederate and Federal camps, a medical field hospital, a period wedding on Saturday at 11:00 am, and a church service on Sunday morning at 10:00 am (yours truly will be speaking). Nathan will be serving as the brigade bugler. If you do stop by, be sure to say hey. Just look for Becky Lynn in her beautiful hoop skirt and dress.
Monday, September 17
2:46 PM Today we "slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the base of the roof." Okay, so only Nathan slipped the bonds.
I stirred the paint.
But at least the roof's done.
Right now Nate is fixing to go to Carolina to install some church doors he's built, while I'm gonna try and some writing done. We're also prepping for the main event of the week, when Becky has her new kitchen counters installed on Wednesday. Nathan has to disassemble the old counters then, once the new ones have been installed, reconnect all the appliances. Big job, little time, as we have to leave on Friday for our next Civil War reenactment.
9:03 AM Right now we're waiting for the dew to dry on the barn roof. Yep, it's painting day, and I'm getting that much closer to showing you the before and after photos of the hay barn. Can't wait....
8:56 AM Speaking of Gondar, our son Bereket returns to school there today, having spent the past few months in Addis Ababa in the care of his eye specialist. Bereket still cannot read, and the doctors in Addis have done all they can do. We asked his lead doctor to send us a detailed referral. Becky has passed it on to the Duke Eye Center in nearby Durham, NC, whose staff includes some of the world's leading eye specialists. We are hoping against hope that perhaps they can do something for Bereket's astigmatism, perhaps even Lasik surgery (which cannot be done in Ethiopia). We expect to hear from Duke this week or next. If they would like to examine him, then Becky and I will bring Bereket here for another possible operation. Bereket has become a huge blessing in our lives. Last Saturday night we heard testimony after testimony of his servant's heart. Bereket has already led his sister to Christ. His mother, we hope, is not far behind. He exudes the love of Jesus. What fun it would be if he could visit America and share his story with others. If he does come I can't wait to take him to campus. So, even though I know you are extremely busy, I'd request that you shoot up a quick prayer for this young man, that he would continue to grow strong in the Lord, that he would apply himself in school, and that Duke might be favorably disposed to seeing him (if that be God's will).
8:24 AM I had a huge problem this morning. It seems that no matter where I turn in my Greek New Testament I always keep coming back to the book of Acts. I set out to read 1 Corinthians this morning and ended up reading about Paul's missionary journeys instead. Here's what I find so fascinating about that account. It seems that God has led Becky and me to begin a new work in North Gondar in the same way that He led Paul to begin a new work in Europe. I'm reminded of how God's Spirit led Paul and Silas to Troas on the coast of the Aegean Sea, which was the jumping off point to Macedonia (in what we now call Europe). The "man from Macedonia" we suspect was none other than doctor Luke, who appealed to Paul to "come over and help us." Becky and I have also had our Macedonian call, and that from several "Lukes" in Gondar. We also have our Pauls and Timothys, men selected by the local churches in Gondar to "preach the kingdom of God and teach about the Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 28:31). God's living presence in them is their direction and power, and obedience is their motivation. I cannot thank God enough for these evangelists. Acts says, "When the Holy Spirit has come upon you, then [and only then] shall you be My witnesses...." If the Spirit of God is within us, we must speak about Jesus because the Spirit Himself, in effect, is witnessing to Himself. I therefore cannot imagine a church community or a seminary community that isn't intentionally evangelistic. Where you have evangelism, there you have the Holy Spirit. Where you do not have evangelism, there you do not have the Holy Spirit. Our part is simply to surrender in obedience to God's will. This is the reason why I teach Greek -- not "a" reason but "the" reason: to equip my students to be Scripturally-wise, Spirit-filled men and women who will serve Jesus with all their hearts and so fulfill the Great Commission. If they study with me and lack a concern about others or become indifferent to the idolatry all around them, then I have failed as a teacher. If, on the other hand, they leave my classes with a greater desire to serve others in love and win others to loyalty to Christ, then God has accomplished His purposes in their education. And if they feel this way about the lost it's because God feels this way.
The work in North Gondar has begun. It is as barren and yet as fertile a mission field as Macedonia was when Paul got there. I'm excited to see what God will do as our evangelists visit the Philippis and Bereas and Thessalonicas and Athens of Northern Ethiopia.
Sunday, September 16
7:19 PM What a great time we had Saturday night as Becky hosted our Ethiopia team members and their spouses at Bradford Hall. The beautifully bedecked table had more food that anyone could eat. Afterwards we adjourned to the Lee Room to watch slides and videos of Ethiopia. What happy memories! Then back to the formal dining room for dessert and coffee, reading letters from Ethiopia, and a long season of prayer for our African brothers and sisters. The purpose of our mission to Ethiopia last June was the same as what you will find in the book of Acts: contacting, cultivating, and conserving. The early church never relaxed their efforts in this regard. For me, the experience of the earliest Christians provides both the motivation and pattern for my approach to missions. Contact, cultivate, and conserve. What's amazing is that the churches in Burji and Alaba that began as missions have themselves become missions-minded and are sending out evangelists and missionaries all over Ethiopia to contact people, cultivate relationships with them, and conserve those who choose to follow Jesus. Evangelism is a wonderful spiral. And the result? "The churches were strengthened in their faith" (Acts 16:5). Our common faith -- the faith shared between Bethel Hill Baptist Church and Union Chapel Baptist Church and Tabernacle Baptist Church and the churches in Burji and Alaba -- has created a dimension of love that draws us together. We share the lives, concerns, hopes, and interests of each other. And it really never ends. Just as Paul said to Barnabas, "Come, let us return and visit the brethren in every city where we proclaimed the Word of the Lord and see how they are doing," so our team members are eager to return to their sister congregations and continue the good work. The thrill of missions begins again.
These photos are self-explanatory. I must, however, call your attention to a very special young lady from the seminary who spent the entire day helping Becky in food preparation, table decoration, and serving. Throughout the evening she modeled for us the sweet servant spirit of her Lord. The evening would have been impossible without her. We can't thank you enough, Miss Rachael.
1:21 PM Fall has arrived! The temperature today is 76 degrees, the sky is blue with a tinge of clouds, the air is brisk. We have had an absolutely perfect day so far, beginning with a morning walk to visit our animals. Everyone was frisky and happy.
Mary was happy to see me and even happier because I had some granola to feed her. It looks like she's been widowed; we haven't seen Dick for weeks.
We sang again at the nursing facility in Clarksville, "our fair city." I'm sorry, but I can't refer to it as a nursing "home" any longer. The loneliness is unbelievable. To many of the residents we are their only family.
Here Miss Davis, who can't leave her room, helps us sing "Amazing Grace" and "When We All Get to Heaven."
Our Sunday School class today was in the book of Daniel. We went verse-by-verse, even though the Lifeway quarterly likes (inanely) to skip verses. We also had a wonderful baptismal service accompanied by lots of hymn singing. Nathan said over lunch, "You could go to any large church and you wouldn't be able to match the fellowship and music we have at Averett." He's right.
This afternoon Becky is canning more tomatoes, Nathan is picking more okra, and I'm (ahem) napping.
8:49 AM Hey there. Nathan here. Dad has asked me to give some narrative to follow these pictures. For a while now I have been accumulating pictures of old houses in our area. Some are from old government records, some from newspaper clippings, some from historical websites, and some are photos we've taken on our ramblings around. Some of these houses are no longer standing, while some have been restored. The South is full of beautiful old houses falling down, and I'm afraid that we as a culture will not learn to appreciate them until most are already gone. I am trying to get pictures of any that I see so that at least they will still be remembered in the future.
On our road alone, which is about 5 miles long, there were 10 vacant and un-maintained houses in the condition of those pictured below, when we moved here 6 years ago. All were "fixable" at that time. Of those 10, one has been fixed up, one has been burned down, one has collapsed due to neglect, one has been torn down, and the rest are decaying steadily. Many of these are owned by people who inherited the property and have built themselves a new house near the old one and have left "the home place" to fall apart. Also on our road are 6 old houses that are lived in and maintained. Some are still in the original families, while others like mine have been bought by people that love old houses and intend to keep them up. As I pass the ones that are falling down I wish those owners would realize the historical nature of them and be willing to fix them or at least sell them to someone who would. Many old houses in our area I have tried to purchase in order to restore, or tear down to salvage the materials, but few owners are willing to consider it.
The first two photos that dad picked out of my file are actually from Hale County, Alabama, the county where our ancestors migrated to in the 1820s. Our ancestor, Gen. Patrick May, built his house in 1828 south of Greensboro AL, and called it Brick Spring. It is still standing and maintained, though not in the family anymore. These houses pictured below are not connected to our people. I just happened to have old pictures of them in my file, and both are still standing.
Greek revival (1850s) at its best!
Now on to Virginia. The house below was very early Federal style (1780-1800) with a central hall and four rooms on each floor. Note the Federal style cornice and the round arched detail over the lower windows. Unfortunately this house is now gone.
Here's a simple farmhouse, hall/parlor plan (no central hall, just two rooms with the stairs in one room). Early 1800s.
A little known style was the "tripartite," common only for a few years right around the turn of the 19th century. The central two story section had a stair hall across the front, with a room or two behind it, and one story wings opening off the hall. Very few tripartite houses are left.
Here's another Tripartite dwelling, this time in North Carolina, which an organization called "Preservation North Carolina" is trying to find someone willing to move to a new location to be restored in order to avoid its upcoming demolition. A later addition in the rear has messed up the beautiful symmetry on the right side.
The old house below, called "Belle Mont," is a good example of the "Georgian" style, the name coming from the period during the reigns of the "Georges" in England, although because the colonies were slow to adopt new styles Georgian architecture in Virginia was common until the 1830s. This house was built around 1790, and also shows a few "modern" touches in the Federal style (just coming popular) fanlight over the front door and the rounded gable attic vent. This house stood in neighboring Halifax County, VA, and the owners of the property built a new brick ranch house nearby in the 70s and allowed the old house to fall down. Nothing is left of Belle Mont.
An interesting story accompanies these two next pictures, taken from an old newspaper article. This Federal style house was built about 20 miles west of us, and originally contained two stories and attic rooms. It was built in the Side-Hall plan, where the stair hall was on the side of the house and two rooms back to back on the other end (where the chimneys are). In the mid 1930s it caught fire, like most old houses did in the days of wood cooking and heating. Sparks from the chimney caught the old split-wood shingle roof on fire. Some neighborhood men hauled water onto the roof to put out the flames, while others beat the flames with rags. According to word of mouth tradition, even an old crippled man got into the action, shooting patches of burning shingles off of the roof with his shotgun whenever new spots of fire appeared on other places of the roof. The fire was put out, but not without destroying the roof and much of the second story. The owner, being a resourceful yet impoverished farmer, decided not to rebuild the second story, but instead removed the damaged portion and built a new roof structure.
Below: The same house after the roof was lowered. Notice that when they rebuilt the roof they even replaced the dentil molding blocks across the cornice of the front of the house! This house is still standing and well preserved by its present owners, who tell anyone who'll listen of the strange story of the 200 year old house that shrunk.
During the mid 1800s the Greek Revival style became popular, and most houses during this time carried the style to its fullest. Note the low hipped roof and the gabled portico. Also the porch posts are well done in the Ionic order.
Here's another Greek Revival house from Halifax County, VA, this time done in brick and two rooms deep with the chimneys central to the house. Also 1840-1850s.
Hope you've enjoyed a brief tour of history in our neck of the woods. Don't get so busy in your running-arounds that you fail to notice the signs of history about you. Along with the loss of the old home places are the loss of memories of childbirths, death wakes, family gatherings, and reminders of a time when family was more important than occupation, time more than money, children more than careers, quality craftsmanship more than efficiency, and a time when the next county was a "right far" away. Have we really convinced ourselves that our generation is better off?
Friday, September 14
7:00 PM I shot this picture at exactly 7:00 pm. Yes, that's rain out there and, yes, those are water puddles in the foreground. Thank you Lord!
5:06 PM I didn't know that Ron Paul attends a Baptist Church in Lakewood, Texas. I accessed this information at One Vote Under God. To the web developers: I appreciate your efforts, but why no category on "just war," a religious issue if ever there was one?
4:30 PM A member of the Bethel Hill Ethiopia team sent us this BBC link about an amazing photography display that opened at London’s Photographers’ Gallery yesterday. It's called From Emperor to Military Dictator: Shemelis Desta’s Ethiopian Archive 1963-1982. Here's a sample:
Tomorrow evening, by the way, Becky and I are hosting a dinner at Bradford Hall for all of our team members from this summer's trip. You should see her menu. It even includes Doro Wat. Food doesn't get any better than that.
3:36 PM I'm taking a short break from work and I see that Alan Knox has yet another great thread going, this time on the use of one loaf in our communion services. He links to David Roger's thread here. I think this is blogging at its very best. Before I get back to vacuuming the carpets, I'd like to add one thing to the discussion, and it doesn't even have to do with the main thrust of either blog post. The text of 1 Cor. 10:17 states (my translation), "Because there is one loaf of bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf of bread." My point is this: the one loaf of bread does not merely symbolize the unity of all believers. Paul teaches that in some way it also produces it. This is the plain meaning of his words: "Because there is one loaf of bread, we who are many are one body...." Notice that he does not say, "Because we who are many are one, there is one loaf of bread." He says precisely the opposite. Thus, the single loaf does not merely represent "an important spiritual truth" (as David puts it). In some way it also produces that reality. How? I'm not sure. Nor is it something to divide a church over. But I would ask: Why don't we use a single loaf of bread during our communion services? Could it not be a real boost to unity? You say your congregation is too large for that. Yes, perhaps your congregation IS too large! The earliest believers broke bread "from house to house." Well-padded sanctuaries such as we have today simply did not exist back then. Churches were extended "households," and the Lord's Supper was probably accompanied by a full family meal. It was, as someone has said, the Lord's "Supper," not the Lord's "Snack." During the meal each believer partook of the one cup (not "cups") and the one loaf (not "loaves" or "wafers") in honor and remembrance of their absent but soon-coming Lord. Thus Paul writes: "Consider what I'm saying. Is not the cup of blessing that we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the loaf of bread that we break a sharing in the body of Christ?" How, then, can we implement this in our churches? In a traditional setting it will not be easy, since the Lord's Supper may well be observed only infrequently (rather than weekly, as seems to have been the case in the early church, Acts 20:7) and in a very traditional manner (with small cups of juice and broken pieces of crackers). Nor is it a matter, as we have said, upon which to base church fellowship. In this, as in many other areas of my life, I am painfully aware that my reach exceeds my grasp. But those who would be true to the Scriptures must learn to seek renewal wherever it is needed, just as they must learn to cooperate with churches who disagree on secondary matters in a joint commitment to get the Gospel out.
One last note. In Basel, where my wife and I attended the local Baptist church, the Lord's Supper always consisted of a single loaf of bread and a single cup of grape juice. One passed the cup from person to person while wiping it with a handkerchief. It was a marvelous blessing to be involved in such a communion service. But what made the Lord's Supper most meaningful was the fact that our little congregation of 35 believers was, in reality, a very close-knit Body in Christ. Baptists in Switzerland tend to be like that because they are often considered to be cults by the general public.
11:55 AM Over at Travel Light Tim Patterson has an excellent discussion in response to my essay A Twenty-First Century Church. I always enjoy what missiologists have to say about the church. On one point at least I totally agree with brother Tim: the church must always penetrate society rather than withdraw from it. This does not mean that short-term withdrawal due to certain circumstances might not be made from time to time (as we saw recently with the Korean hostages in Afghanistan). But the church must never cease being missional, for we are not asked to wring our hands about the evils in the world but to call men and women to repentance that God might redeem it. We dare not abandon this conviction; we dare not give up our witness. No matter how great the opposition, the church can be the church only when believers freely and openly and consciously decide to participate in the work of making disciples of all nations. God bless you, Tim, for all you are doing to make this a reality at Smyrna.
11:45 AM Our intelligence corps spends billions of dollars in tracking and location and still we can't find Osama, possibly the tallest man in the Arab world. And the big debate on air seems to be whether his beard is real or fake. I want you to know that I have no official position on this matter.
11:24 AM I just got back from running errands for Becky to the pharmacy, grocery store, and bank. I'm not trying to rub it in, you city folk, but there ain't nothin' like country living. Everywhere I went I was cordially greeted both coming and going ("Hi. How are you today? Can I help you? Thanks for shopping here. Come back and see us again.") At Food Lion I was practically assaulted with people trying to help me (I did look desperate trying to find the cream cheese and the pie crusts). The assistant manager even came to my rescue (unasked for). (He happens to be my neighbor and a deacon at my church.) In the parking lot a young teenager was collecting carts and walked up to me to help me load groceries. He was as affable as affable can get and a delight to talk with ("Looks like rain today." "Yeah, we could sure use some." "You have a good day now." "You too.") He wouldn't let me take my cart to the drop off. It was his joy to take care of that for me. People are in a big hurry out here in rural America -- to be helpful and friendly.
8:55 AM John Piper assesses the state of the church in China. I'm told that the house churches in China number in the thousands and that mini-Bible schools are sprouting up all over. And I like this quote (found in this essay):
Once again, China is proving that an indigenous church always thrives under persecution, just as the Ethiopian church did during Marxist rule (1976-1991).
8:47 AM This says it all (Pandita Ramabai, Indian Christian and "Mother of Modern India," 1858-1922):
I can't think of a worthier goal for a New Testament professor, or for any Christian for that matter, can you?
8:41 AM A belated "Happy New Year" to all our friends and loved ones in Ethiopia. Welcome to the new millennium.
8:35 AM Exciting day today. I think I've recovered from my cold, at least to the point where I can make myself useful around the farm again. I've really been praying about my upcoming mission trips and getting very eager to travel again. My brain is aching from all the information it's had to digest about the countries I'll be visiting. I've also been reading a lot of missionary bios and getting to see their heart for these nations. Whenever I think of these intrepid witnesses for Christ, I visualize in my mind's eye the brave young man standing in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square. Obviously God gives His people supernatural strength to face any and all obstacles when they are encountered. As 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “God had not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.”
Thursday, September 13
7:48 PM I just stumbled across this great quote. It made my day.
6:53 PM The editors over at Two Institutions have just published part two of their series, Is Student Ministry Biblical? Coincidentally, it was just yesterday in our Jesus and the Gospels class that we discussed Jesus and the age 12 transition. And this is funny. I brought a video clip of the movie "The Man from Snowy River" to show to the class but a VCR was nowhere to be found on the entire campus. Shows how old I'm getting I guess. Thankfully a student saw my distress, went to his dorm to grab his VCR, hooked it up to a TV set, and everything went smoothly after that. The point the movie makes is a subtle one: if we don't provide our youth with rites of passage, they'll manage to come up with their own self-defined (and often dangerous) ones.
So three cheers for parents and youth workers who raise the crown high over our young people's heads and grow them up into it. And thanks to that student of mine (I forgot to get his name!) for the loan of his VCR.
6:44 PM I see that our farm manager (aka "da boss") has moved the goats and the big cows into the horse pasture. I missed seeing everyone when they were in the back pastures. These are the parts of the farm we finished fencing in this year -- two 40 acre sections of woods and fields. So for now we get to hear the baa-ing and moo-ing up close and personal. I love watching these guys, especially the cows. Four of them will be in the freezer come November.
And here's some good news: we're expecting an inch of rain tomorrow. A storm system seems to be moving in from Texas. You can't believe how wonderful that would be. We haven't had a good rain in 3 months. Rain this week is vital if the remaining crops in our county are to survive.
11:18 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Who Is Head of Your Church?
7:52 AM Congrats to Dana and Matthew McDill! Got a name yet? If not, here’s some helpful advice:
7:49 AM Greek students, check out these mosaics from Caesarea and practice your Greek at the same time.
7:46 AM I can say a hearty “Amen” to this:
Read Presuppositions for Blogging (and Writing). I reminded my doctoral students on Tuesday that anything worth writing is worth reading (i.e., worth publishing) – or ought to be. I then gave them an example of a journal article I had published in JETS while still a doctoral student at Basel. It is my hope that all of my students will publish their seminar papers and eventually their dissertations so that the rest of us can benefit from their labors. Why else go to all the trouble?
7:40 AM Chip Bayer, who blogs over at Thideology, sent along a link to his latest online film: Gott Mit Uns. It takes a hard look at the dangers of statism as seen in the light of German nationalism. As I wrote to Chip, I think a new Barmen Declaration, U.S. style, may well be required today:
Someday I’ll tell the story of Paul Mittmann, the former Wehrmacht soldier who taught me how to speak German when I was living in Southern California and he was pastoring a Lutheran Brethren church in Anaheim. It’s an unforgettable testimony to the goodness and grace of God in Nazi Germany. Like the Germans in the 1930s, we’re cheering those who would lead us into empire and enslave us “for our own good.” If you really care about this nation of ours you should read the U.S. Constitution and support only those politicians who will keep their promise to abide by it. Meanwhile, I can’t pass up an opportunity to call your attention to this discussion between arch-neocon Bill O’Reilly and Ron Paul about the next preemptive strike in the Middle East (i.e., Iran). I love Paul. He clings to his old-fashioned ideas about truth, justice, and the Constitution. The result is ridicule by the likes of O'Reilly. Jacob tries to get rich in Shechem and Dinah goes out to see the daughters of the land, but everyone resents the prophet who calls on Christians to keep themselves from idols. I've said it before and I'll say it again: There can be no peace in the Middle East as long as Americans maintain a truce with what God says we should destroy, beginning with our national hubris. Let me also make it clear that I do not believe that politics is the solution to America’s woes. Recently I heard someone say, “Ron Paul is America’s only hope.” Hogwash. If you believe that, you’ve put the cart before the horse, as Eric Carpenter has just reminded us.
7:30 AM Man, does this teacher get it right:
Read Drunk on Jesus.
7:21 AM I get 7 years younger every time I make a trip to Ethiopia. Here’s why.
Tuesday, September 11
5:03 AM The latest addition to our home page is called The Suffering Church.
Monday, September 10
6:49 PM We made excellent headway on the barn today despite the fact that both Nathan and I are fighting head colds. We're pumping the Echinacea and Vitamin C and drinking lots of fluids. Tomorrow I teach again on campus so I can't let up now. At any rate, we nailed up the front siding today, so really the only things left to do are to install the windows and build the upstairs doors. Then we still have to finish painting the roof of course. I cannot wait for the day when I can post the before-and-after pictures of the barn. Other than building Bradford Hall this has been, by far, the most ambitious and enjoyable project Nate and I have worked on together. And, unlike most of our other outbuildings, I think this barn will actually be used to store what we built it to store: horse quality square bales. The operative words being "I think."
7:32 AM I have preached the world over in churches large and small. And I can tell you: I prefer smaller churches. The Free Churches of the 16th Century believed that congregations should be small enough so that every believer knew all of the others. The Confession of 1611 of the English General Baptists said in its 16th article that "a Church ought not to consist of such a multitude as cannot have particular knowledge one of another." Why, then, do we magnify large churches so often? "Our speaker today led his church to grow from 300 to 3,000 in just 5 years!" Well enough. But periodic subdivision might be a healthier approach as growth occurs.
7:24 AM Here are a few pix from yesterday's service at Bethel Hill Baptist Church in Roxboro, NC:
Here Becky wears the Ethiopian dress that our son David in Alaba bought for her. Beautiful.
The team smiles for the camera just before beginning their presentation. From left to right: Cindi, Stacy, Jason H., Mary, Sherree, Danny, and Ed. Becky and I felt like we were parents watching our children getting ready to go on stage!
The service began with Jason E. baptizing a happy young man. Can you think of a better way to begin a service on missions?
Jason E. told the story of how Bethel Hill got involved with Burji, Ethiopia. During a revival service I had been invited to speak, and one of the evenings was devoted to "Jesus, Master Missionary" (Matt. 9:35-39). We shared slides of Ethiopia, and the church was moved to get personally involved.
Miss Mary (aka the Queen of Ethiopia), 80 years young, stole everyone's hearts (as always). She told a story on Becky that I won't repeat here except to say it was a howler.
My favorite picture. It says "Sister Churches"... "Bethel Hill Baptist Church, Roxboro, NC" ... "The Soyama Town Church, Burji, Ethiopia." That's a God thing, folks.
The good work doesn't end here. The Bethel Hill team presented four goals to the congregation for prayer: 1) help build a resource center for the church in Soyama, 2) help support the rural medical center, 3) establish a Soyama Christian School, and 4) raise funds for Bibles. The team is eager to return to their sister congregation. It was sweet for Becky and me to witness the deep relationship God has established between these two churches. God alone gets all the credit.
7:12 AM Yesterday evening I walked down to Nathan's farm with the Shelties. I didn't know we'd be in for an adventure. Call it "Dogs Meet Cats" or, rather, "Cats Run for Their Lives from Dogs." Thankfully, Cats ducked under the house in the nick of time. I don't know why it is, but let dogs find a living creature smaller than they are and they have got to chase it. So Nate and I sat on a bench and watched this pas-de-deux of nature, as Cats peeked out from under the house while Dogs barked, or while one Cat snuck out from the other side of the house and made a beeline for the corn crib. I never had to come to Cats' rescue, though I would have done so gladly. As I walked the puppies back to Bradford Hall I thought to myself: both Cats just cashed in one of their nine lives.
Sunday, September 9
7:54 AM If Acts 29 were ever to be written, my guess is it would include the members of the Bethel Hill Ethiopia Team...
Do you know what the last word in the Book of Acts is in the Greek? "Unhindered." Wow. Luke tells us how the Gospel was triumphant from Jerusalem to Rome: nothing could hinder it. The Spirit likewise today continues to break down barriers to the spread of the Gospel: race, gender, physical infirmities, fear. I'm telling you, each of these men and women, in going to Ethiopia last June, with the constant aid of the Holy Spirit, is a testimony to the power and grace of God. This morning Becky and I have the joy and honor at being with them and their sending congregation to say "praise the Lord" for what He did in and through this incredible group of humble yet radical believers as they give their follow-up report. They are a marvelous testimony to the faithfulness of the Lord Jesus, who continues His work today through the Holy Spirit to the far corners of the earth. The faith of the Ethiopian church in Burji was greatly strengthened and encouraged through their tireless efforts and through the prayers of the entire congregation. So too today, by the enablement of the Spirit, may we all be obedient witnesses as the Gospel message is taken to the whole world.
We thank God for you, Bethel Hill team!! (Yes, you get TWO exclamation points.)
Saturday, September 8
5:49 PM I just spent 5 hours with Nathan driving to Roanoke Rapids, NC, to look at a pickup truck Nate was thinking about buying. He decided to pass on it. That was fine with me. The time was still well spent in terms of fellowshiping and sightseeing along the way (yep, we saw several antebellum homes). Right now I'm fixing Chinese for supper (with my special ingredient PLUS a very special ingredient given to us by some very special friends). Earlier today we made some more progress on the hay mansion. Nate says it's finally looking like a barn. I'd really like to have it completed before I leave on my next mission trip.
8:11 AM A reminder to all my Greek students: studies show that language aptitude and achievement overlap with each other by as much as 35 percent. This means that for some of you, learning Greek will come more easily than others. One person might master the material in an hour and the next person might need 3 or 4 hours to learn the very same material. In my personal experience, language learning has never come easy. I have had to work hard to acquire a good working knowledge of, say, German. The lesson? Try not to compare yourself to anyone else in the class. God knows your linguistic strengths -- and your limitations. But I still believe that mastery of Greek is possible for anyone who will take the time and make the effort to study. Motivation and self-discipline can do much to overcome a low language aptitude.
One last reminder: do not fall behind in our class. If you get behind on even one lesson it is almost impossible to play catch up. Again, I speak from personal experience.
7:49 AM Over at the Power of Change, Reid Monaghan reminds us that the Gospel is not just the ABCs of our faith but the A-Z. This is one reason I love teaching the "Jesus and the Gospels" course. We never outgrow our need for the Gospel, do we?
7:35 AM The latest addition to our home page is called A Word to My Ph.D. Students.
7:26 AM I dragged myself into bed at about 7:00 o'clock last night. I'm not usually this tired. It may have been the onset of a head cold. But this morning I awoke refreshed and raring to go again after 11 hours of sleep. I read the Psalter and spent a few precious moments with my Lord Jesus. Then I looked outside and this is what I saw.
And do you know what I was reading this morning? "Even when I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God. Let me live to tell the people of this age what your strength has accomplished, to tell about your power to all who will come. Your righteousness reaches to the heavens, O God. You have done great things. O God, who is like you?" (Psa. 71:18-19).
All I could say was Amen.
Friday, September 7
7:14 PM Coming tomorrow: "A Word to My Ph.D. Students."
7:11 PM Here's something funny. Today we were looking at an ad for some property for sale near us and decided to call the number on the flyer. A recorded message described the acreage as "prime woodland with 2 year-old pines." In other words, "Cutover"!
2:36 PM We've been working on the barn. But it's been hot. Real hot. Especially upstairs in the barn. There's very little air circulating, so we figured the better part of wisdom is to come indoors for a while.
Meanwhile I have some great news. Our evangelists to North Gondar have begun their ministries, moving out into the communities and establishing their homes and relationships. We had several scriptural requirements for our evangelists, not least that they be free of the love of money, ease, and power. We've also insisted that anyone training them must take the public bus from Addis to Gondar and must sleep in private homes rather than in expensive hotels. The Bible teaches that the Christian life is more seriously threatened by wealth than possibly anything else. It also teaches that Christian living is possible either in prosperity or poverty. The challenge is remaining faithful to Christ in joy or sorrow, riches or poverty, honor or humiliation. Like the apostle Paul, we must be content in every circumstance. Paul put prosperity and poverty on the same level. Paul's "I have learned..." is the very reverse of resignation. In Christ, life is fulfilling and meaningful regardless of external circumstances. But here's the rub. Even as I expect our evangelists to be indifferent to their social conditions, I must constantly ask myself whether I can live in all conditions without wanting to change them to meet my comfort levels. This is never possible except through the strength of Christ. Yet I believe this attitude of contentment is completely decisive in relation to our situation in society, whether we live in affluent America or impoverished Africa. How can I expect the Gondar evangelists to accept difficult living conditions if I myself am not willing to do the same, if I am not able or willing to travel to uncomfortable and even dangerous parts of the world for the sake of Christ, if I am not able to put aside my sad scholarship for something much greater -- relationships? So even as I pray for the evangelists as they begin their work, I pray for myself -- that I would be as sacrificial in my outlook as they are.
8:22 AM For those of you who missed the latest greatest GOP debate, here's a good roundup. My favorite line in the comments section (despite the overuse of exclamation points): "Why is Ron Paul a Republican? He actually makes sense!!!!"
7:59 AM The latest addition to our home page is called The Synoptic Problem: Why Are the Fathers Ignored?
7:55 AM I see that I'm not the only non-Anabaptist who appreciates the work of the Anabaptists.
7:51 AM Yesterday I linked to a review of one of Karl Barth's books. What is my opinion of the work of Barth? In a nutshell, it is this: Barth may be often wrong, but he is never platitudinous or dull. Much can be learned from his acute and informed expositions. Even more can be gained from critical interaction with his brilliant discussions. For example, if you have never read his Church Dogmatics, you are missing a very stimulating work. Above all, I appreciate Barth's unflagging stance against German statism during World War II while most of the other prominent New Testament scholars were bending the knee before their Leader (while misquoting Romans 13).
7:46 AM Aussie John has joined the discussion about the (public) confession of sins. An absolutely superb read.
7:40 AM Reading Arthur Conan Doyle is such a delight for me because I'm always being exposed to English words I don't know. Last night I encountered two such lexemes: "crenulated" and "mullioned." These words occurred in Doyle's wonderful description of Baskerville Hall in Devonshire, just before Sir Henry is greeted by the butler and his wife.
Incidentally, the entire Hound of the Baskervilles can be read online here.
7:32 AM While living in Southern California I was privileged to study dressage with one of Germany's most accomplished riders. Dressage is a French word referring to the "dressing" or "training" of one's horse. The ancients used it for preparing their steeds for battle. In this cute essay, Winnie the Pooh is critiqued on his dressage form. The one thing I like about Pooh's technique is his smile. Dressage takes a great deal of effort, but there's no sense in working that hard without enjoying it. I can remember hooting and hollering when I was taking Traveler cross-country riding, so fast were we going and so thrilling was the experience. I recall doing the same thing on 25-foot waves in Hawaii. I guess I feel the same way in the classroom today. I never dread walking into a class full of students eager to learn. I haven't yet hollered though.
Thursday, September 6
10:49 AM The number of evangelicals converting in Eastern Orthodoxy continues to grow rapidly. The reasons are discussed here. Interestingly, many of the converts are former Baptists.
10:44 AM James Tucker writes to tell me that he has completed a set of vocabulary cards based on Bruce Metzger’s Lexical Aids for Students of New Testament Greek. This is a real labor of love on your part, James. Many thanks indeed.
10:37 AM You can read about a 6 foot 4 inch long zucchini and other record holders here.
10:32 AM Wyman Richardson reviews Karl Barth's Dogmatics in Outline.
10:30 AM Richard Mouw is rethinking his “theology of hugging.” Glad he is. In Ethiopia hugging is as natural as handshaking is in America. Usually you have to hug three times for your hug to be proper. Sometimes you kiss the person’s cheek while you’re at it. When I greet Muslim men I usually hug them and then kiss their right hand three times. They always return the favor. Men are much more demonstrative in Ethiopia than in the States, without any sexual connotations at all.
10:24 AM Students, if you still need to buy books this semester, here’s a website that compares merchant sites such as Amazon, EBay, Barnes and Nobles as well as some used book stores. For example, here’s the lowdown on my beginning Greek grammar. Prices range from $15.19 to a whopping $38.64. (I almost used an exclamation mark at the end of that last sentence.)
10:19 AM Greek students, when I had just completed my third week of beginning Greek in college, this is how I felt:
No kidding. The result was a quick trip over to the registrar's office to drop the course. If this is how you look after studying Greek for three weeks, please call me or write me. I’ll help you get over the hurdles. I know you can make it.
10:15 AM How does your seminary stack up with other seminaries in the U.S.? You can find out here. Of course, as far as my father-in-law, who’s a DTS grad, is concerned, there’s only one seminary.
10:12 AM Did you know that South Korea, which is about 30 percent Christian, is the second-largest source of missionaries, after the United States, with almost 17,000 in 170 countries? I thank God for each of them. Let’s pray for the returned hostages as they recover from their ordeal and readapt to home life.
10:05 AM Our postman is not a pastor but he is a wonderful Christian. In Podunksville you can get into a wonderfully long conversation with your mail carrier. No one is in a hurry out here in the country, and that’s just the way we like it.
9:58 AM In praise of Wikipedia.
9:55 AM A pastor (Chuck Baldwin) interviews a strict constitutionalist (Ron Paul). The interview is about 30 minutes long. Listen and learn why there’s such a huge groundswell of support for Paul and how he differs from the rest of the pack. I earlier said that Paul doesn’t stand a chance to win the Republican nomination. Well, I eat my words. Today he’s got a chance – if the neocons split over Romney, Giuliani, and McCain. One thing is sure: Paul is the only constitutionalist when it comes to the Iraq War.
Added note: If you are a public speaker, watch this video of a Ron Paul stump speech and notice how effective he is with his audience. Note especially the absence of any notes.
9:47 AM Nice note from a fellow farmer:
Amen to that.
9:36 AM Do you like to use exclamation points in your blogging and emails? I don’t know about you, but I have to think that an exclamation point can actually trivialize the emphatic point one is trying to make. I always think twice about ending a sentence with one, and I never use two or more in one place. Common sense says: When everything is emphasized, nothing is emphasized. It’s like the boy who cried wolf one too many times. One author suggests that we use the exclamation point no more than two or three times per 100,000 words. Sounds good to me. I notice that the ISV breaks this “rule” in numerous places: “Look! Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!” (Matt. 12:2). Were the Pharisees really that excited? This is an area that cries out for reexamination when our committee meets again. Meanwhile, I try to tell myself constantly: “Dave, avoid the gratuitous use of exclamation points!”
9:25 AM Nice little serendipity: We had Kona Coffee yesterday in our lounge at school. Delicious. I’d say it easily beats Colombian brands any day. Kona coffee is cultivated on the volcanic slopes of what is known as the Kona coffee belt on the Big Island of Hawaii. I had plenty of friends in Kailua who would go there every summer to work during the coffee harvest. I never went myself – too busy surfing at Waikiki and Ala Moana, I guess.
9:20 AM Check out David Regier’s blog for some good thoughts about 1 John 1:9 – what it means, and what it doesn’t. How true – our spiritual passion is affected by the conditions in and around us. I thank God for those people in my life (including bloggers I know only via the web) whose company invigorates me, and when I watch their lives I am full of new resolve to confess my sins and shortcomings (sometimes to others and not only to God). I have found it extremely helpful, as David points out, to remember that my actions and thoughts are never purely private matters but effect the people all around me, for good or for ill. I too am growing in my ability to be transparent with my fellow Christians. For people in whom the Holy Spirit is working, living without personal integrity and spiritual community is simply intolerable.
9:12 AM I had to smile when I saw that Alan Knox and his fellow elders once brought a series of messages at Messiah Baptist Church on Paul’s “personal epistles.” We, of course, know these letters as “pastoral epistles.” Paul’s letters to Timothy have a peculiar character, being addressed to a person deputed by the apostle Paul to act in his name and to care for the church in Ephesus in his absence. Their application to pastoral ministry today is no less direct because of this fact, for these letters instruct us not only with regard to proper behavior in the church but also with respect to the conduct in which Timothy is charged to lead the Ephesian believers. Nevertheless, to confound the injunctions given to Timothy with the directions Paul gives elsewhere about pastoral ministry (e.g., Eph. 4:11ff.) would be to cast confusion on ministry in its original sense. Two elements are decisive. The first is that the term “pastor” never appears in either of these letters. Of even greater significance is the fact that Timothy was no more than Paul’s temporary personal representative in Ephesus and was definitely not the “pastor” of the congregation. Paul’s emissary was to minister to the believers in Ephesus but not in the capacity of an elder. Indeed, the Ephesian congregation already had elders. On his last journey to Jerusalem Pail had, in fact, sent for the elders of Ephesus to meet him at Miletus (Acts 20:17). Paul wrote 1-2 Timothy in order to instruct young Timothy on how the church should function and how God’s people should interact in it – specifically how godly leadership can be recognized and developed and how false teaching can be avoided. Timothy’s task was to provide consistent teaching and to model integrity as a leader. He was to “preach the Word” and “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:2, 5), which was Paul’s own mission – preaching the Good News to the Gentiles. In addition, Timothy was to commit what he had learned from Paul to faithful disciples who would be able to teach others also (2 Tim. 2:2). Paul’s hope was that the entire congregation in Ephesus – every man and every woman – would apply the Word of God in their lives in four distinct ways so that they would be “complete, thoroughly equipped for very good work” (2 Tim. 3:17). Such completion (or maturity) would issue from (1) doctrine (studying the great truths of Christianity), (2) reproof (gently challenging each other with those truths), (3) correction (being guided by the Scriptures to take corrective courses of action wherever necessary), and (4) instruction in righteousness (being trained by that truth to live out the Christian life in daily practice). Intolerable confusion arises, then, when we speak of these letters as “pastoral epistles,” for the term suggests that Timothy was the church’s pastor. This is an exegetical trap into which many well-meaning expositors have fallen. Hermeneutical freedom cannot be just an investigation of the meaning of the biblical text by an inner deciphering of the text. It has to be a discovery of the meaning in the context in which the text was originally written. This means that we can no longer do today what scholars and expositors have done for so long – apprehend the meaning of these letters divorced from their historical setting. In my classes I must plead constantly for this kind of contextual interpretation. Indeed, one of the things that disturbs me most about current exposition is its almost complete subjection to modern cultural background and its willingness to apply the text without first interpreting it. I find not the slightest indication in these letters that Paul intended his statements to Timothy to apply to modern concepts of a professional pastorate. I think it’s a great pity that 1-2 Timothy were ever called “pastoral epistles” in the first place. They are in the most literal sense occasional documents written to meet an immediate situation. They are not treatises that Paul sat down to write in the quietness of his study. It is precisely because these letters were written to meet a threatening danger of false teaching that they still throb with life today. But to say that Timothy was the pastor of the church at Ephesus or that Paul’s injunctions to him are descriptions of pastoral ministry is to go far beyond the evidence contained in the letters themselves.
Wednesday, September 5
6:44 PM I arrived back home from the seminary a few minutes ago, weary from the ministry of teaching and the travel, but grateful to God and looking forward to working on the farm the rest of the week. I am such a klutz when it comes to manual labor that sometimes I think I should be arrested for impersonating a farmer. But that’s okay. I’m really working to establish the farm for future generations.
Tuesday, September 4
4:12 AM I am very excited about tomorrow's New Testament class. The subject? The synoptic problem. Among other things we'll be tackling the alleged "errors" in Mark's Gospel that were "corrected" by Matthew and Luke. This position was argued by Robert Stein in his book The Synoptic Problem. We'll also talk about the linguistic argument for Markan priority, which Scot McKnight and others consider to be the strongest proof for the Oxford Hypothesis (i.e., that Mark is our earliest Gospel). I sought to rebut Stein's views in an essay in Filologia Neotestamentaria, and Scot and I had a cordial debate over the linguistic argument at an annual SBL meeting several years ago. (I followed that up with an essay on Markan style in my Linguistics and New Testament Interpretation.) Most of our class time, however, will be spent in examining afresh the statements of the early church fathers about the historical origins of the Gospels (or the "Fourfold Gospel"). I'll be sharing with the class my fresh translations of the Greek and Latin fathers that I produced during a weeklong stay at a Benedictine Abbey in London while using their excellent patristics library. Below is a chart of one of the theories I will present in class. It is perhaps the consensus opinio today among New Testament teachers, though I strongly disagree with it. Our class should be loads of fun.
4:04 AM I learned something new yesterday. Nathan was telling me about his SCV meeting in Oxford last week, where the speaker was from Butner, NC. He reported on a project to build a monument to the American GIs who passed through Camp Butner on their way to the European Theatre. He also said that the camp held several thousand German and Italian POWs during the war. I didn't know there were so many, or that Italians were also put behind barbed wire. The German prisoners were let out every day on parole to work in the tobacco fields of Granville County. One of them even painted family portraits, while another built violins and banjos. And get this. The German POWs held a 50th anniversary reunion at Camp Butner in 1995, and over a hundred former prisoners were in attendance, along with their families. That's amazing. I wish I could have been there. World War II history right here in the Piedmont.
Monday, September 3
3:48 PM Well, I trust you're having a good Labor Day. Labor is the operative word around here. Becky's working at the hospital, and Nate and I have been working on the barn. Calls for hay are coming in from far and near. Here's the load of 50 bales we'll be delivering to Oxford today.
Meanwhile, Nate just grained the calves. They're doing fine despite the hot and dry weather. Their older brothers are all in the back 40 enjoying the grass and foliage along with the goats. Before you know it, it'll be time to process several more steers.
Right now we're stopping to get something to eat, then I'll do some writing while Nate drives down to Carolina to swap out our manure trailers. Life on the farm never stops, holiday or not. One gets used to the pace of life, though. In fact, I wouldn't know what to do with myself if I didn't have something to do on the farm every day. Over 90 percent of American farms are still owned and operated by families or individuals. There's nothing quite like being surrounded by fields bustling with the sights and sounds of farm life and nature. Farming has taught me discipline, the pleasure of hard physical work, and the appreciation of what we so commonly find in our grocery stores. I especially enjoy talking to the Lord of All Creation during my daily amblings on our many farm paths. There are trials and tribulations too, but they are vastly outweighed by the blessings. So, on this Labor Day I'm thankful for the health and strength to be able to labor!
8:38 AM Over at Splanknois tou Christou, Matthew Rondeau has begun a series on Roman Catholicism. Here's his motivation:
His latest essay focuses on the Eucharist.
8:33 AM I ran into a new student at the seminary last week. He was a delight to meet and speak with. Come to find out he blogs over at The Metaphysical Club. Take a peek when you have a minute, especially if you enjoy epistemology.
8:04 AM Seen on the SWBTS campus:
7:51 AM Right now I'm flying high. I just got a phone call from one of our Ethiopian sons. Bereket sounded so good. He still has not been fitted with reading glasses but that won't slow him down one bit. He called to tell us that he will return to Gondar tomorrow to begin school.
Here's a picture of Bereket's beautiful home in the countryside. We visited there in 2005. Bereket was a brand new believer at the time.
Here Becky greets Ashageru, Bereket's sister. She is beginning the 11th grade this year in Gondar. Ashageru was not a believer when I took this picture, but she is now a vibrant Christian.
Bereket's mother, Enquahonech, is making injera in this photo. Injera, a pancake-like bread, is the national dish. She also cooked for us a simple vegetable wat (stew) that was absolutely delicious.
After our meal we showed the Jesus Film on our laptop. We have found there is nothing like visiting people in their homes to open up a relationship in which to share with them the love of Jesus. Evangelism is both show and tell.
I am lonely for Bereket and our other children in Ethiopia. There is not a day that goes by that I do not pray by name for these three people. God must love me very much to have given me such precious gifts. I sure don't deserve it, but I sure do appreciate it.
7:22 AM Help wanted: Senior Pastor.
7:20 AM Alan Knox asks some good questions about theology -- the discipline itself, that is. I know one thing: I could never teach systematic theology. I'd get too bogged down in exegeting specific texts. The best I could do in the classroom would be to teach biblical theology. Even then, as Alan notes, if the study of the text itself doesn't make any difference in our lives, why should we bother teaching it? Why, he asks, should we study the deep theology of Romans 1-11 if we fail to implement the injunctions of Romans 12-16? He's right, though I would add one caveat: We will always know more than we do. That's just a fact of life. The practice curve always tends to lag behind the knowledge curve. Think of two parallel lines, both on an upward plane (as in the image to the right). The lines will never touch. However, if the bottom line (the "practice" line) should ever start to sink while the top line (the "knowledge" line) continues to go upward, you know you're in trouble. In teaching we call this staying "an hour ahead of the hounds." A teacher is always expected to know more than his students, but if we're honest, we know that some of our students could be teaching what we're teaching given a year or two of instruction. In the Christian life, we all tend to lag behind in putting into practicing what we believe to be true. There is a dissonance that gnaws at us and, if we are not careful, it begins to sit well with us until we become indifferent and say, "I can never change in this area of my faith or practice, so why try?" The lesson? For me it is this: Be patient with yourself (as patient as God is with you), but never become complacent. And make sure that both lines are rising, not falling.
One last thought. I met an expat who is teaching theology in Ethiopia to a group of pastors in a Bible college. His textbook is the Bible. So, when he is teaching soteriology, for example, he teaches a verse-by-verse exposition of the book of Romans, supplemented by other important texts. That's it. No Grudem, no Erickson. Just Paul (or Peter, or John.) Now that's the kind of "systematic theology" I can relate to.
Sunday, September 2
7:52 PM It's 7:50 pm, and Becky is just now finishing her canning. If there is a harder worker somewhere out there, I don't know who that person is. Nate finished pressure washer the back of the Hall, and I just finished mowing and edging. That means we're all too tired to cook tonight, so off to the local Chinese eatery we go to "buffet" our bodies. Talk at you tomorrow.
2:39 PM Good afternoon, cyber friends! We have been having an absolutely wonderful day here in southern Virginia. Becky resumed canning tomatoes long before we went to church this morning. Then after our church meeting I picked two buckets full. Will it ever end?
As always, we thoroughly enjoyed being at our home church. I wanted you to see this picture I took during our Sunday School opening. Christopher leads us in singing. He's got a powerful voice and sings absolutely on pitch. "A little child shall lead them." He does a great job. The book we are holding in our hands, by the way, is called a hymnal. Remember those?
After the morning service a few of us guys got together by the piano and sang our hearts out unto the Lord. Spontaneous. Extemporaneous. Bapticostal. I don't know what to call it, except loads of fun. If you don't enjoy country Gospel music, folks, you had better learn to like it now. It'll be the music of heaven.
Meanwhile, Becky and I are looking forward to a busy month, full of happy events. The team from Bethel Hill Baptist Church is giving their Ethiopia report; Becky's hosting the team members for dinner here at Bradford Hall; we're speaking on Ethiopia at Mount Tirzah Baptist Church in Charlotte Courthouse; our congregation is hosting a four-church singspiration; Student Day is on the 29th; we'll be back at Meadowview Nursing Home; and last but not least, Becky and I will be celebrating our 31st wedding anniversary. For that I think she deserves at least the Noble Peace Prize, Sainthood, and probably a Purple Heart. I'll be gearing up for my next mission trip and wrapping up a very important book project and sending if off to the publishers. On the farm we'll be completing the hay barn and getting the farm ready for the winter months. In class we'll be covering many important topics including the Synoptic Problem and Jesus' age 12 and 30 transitions, as well as tackling the Greek noun and adjectival systems. Fall weather will return and hunters will be gearing up for dear season. (Yesterday it already sounded like World War III around here; dove season had begun.) Life will go on, and we'll continue to praise the Lord, on bright and cloudy days, in sickness or in health, for the love He allows us to share with one another and the work He's given us to do both here and around the world.
Saturday, September 1
5:25 PM Two items from the "Believe It Or Not!" file:
1) We actually purchased this lumber. As in "paid for." Believe it or not! We got it from a friend who runs the local saw mill. It was a steal, too. All this for only $75 dollars. One man's scrap pile is another man's barn siding.
2) We pounded several hundred nails today and Mr. Klutz didn't hit his thumb once. Not one time. Believe it or not! Here's the framing and siding we've started on the upstairs of the barn.
The next step is to install the windows, which we salvaged from a house that was being demolished. One of these years we'll actually finish this job. I'm thinking we'll have to have another dedication service like the one we had for Bradford Hall, which only took us three years to build!
7:50 AM The latest addition to our home page is called A Twenty-First Century Church.