September 2011 Blog Archives
Thursday, September 22
2:00 AM This email blessed me:
I leave on my trip with the words of David Brainerd burning in my soul: "Oh, that I could spend every moment of my life to God’s glory!"
Fare thee well, my friend.
1:55 AM Let's not forget to pray for brother Youcef Nadarkhani in Iran. His situation requires courage and joy in the Holy Spirit. Remember Heb. 13:3.
Wednesday, September 21
9:22 PM I know, I know, I KNOW! I almost forgot to blog about Becky's guest lecture in our NT class today.
Well, it was phenomenal. She walked us through 2 Corinthians 8-9, verse by verse. I jotted down many takeaways. Here are but a few:
Thank you, honey, for these wonderful insights derived directly from God's Word. And thanks to each student who participated in class today whether in their small group or in front of the entire class. You are the best!
7:08 PM WARNING: Proud grandparents pictures ahead.
6:12 PM Odds and ends:
1) Trinity Christian College announces an opening in Theology.
2) My always-inquisitive Ed.D. student Thomas Hudgins cites a great discussion over at the 9 Marks site about whether or not we should have the position called "Senior Pastor." Here are the relevant links:
The key text, of course, is 1 Peter 5, where the apostle Peter sets himself alongside the elders to whom he writes, not as a senior apostle, but simply as a "fellow elder." The Senior Pastor he refers to is Christ (1 Pet. 5:4). So do read the discussions above. But the clear teaching of Scripture merits following.
By the way, my favorite response in the comments to these essays?
That means a lot to me too.
3) Need to keep up with your Greek? Check out the Daily Koine on Twitter.
4) Arthur Sido chimes in on all the chatter about changing the name of the Southern Baptist Convention. Suggestions I've seen include "KFC" (ha ha) and "Global Baptist Convention." Sure makes me regret that "I Love the SBC" tattoo I got a few years ago.
5) Last night Nigusse and I had dinner with one of my students (Paul Himes) and his parents John and Patty, who have been missionaries in Japan for some 30 years. As we talked about the needs and opportunities for the Gospel in that great nation it became clear to me that a tentmaking approach is wide open, especially in the area of language teaching. Thousands of openings are available for ex-pats from the U.S. to teach English to Japanese students all over the island chain. Tentmaking is one of the most effective ways of doing missions today. For the record, I also think it's also a better use of the Lord’s finances when we fund our own expenses whenever we can. Have you ever thought about investing your life in loving the Japanese to Christ? Better yet, have you ever prayed about it?
6) Just ran across this profound bit of insight: "There's a fine line between fishing and standing on the shore like an idiot."
7) I'm leaving the house at 2:00 in the morning to catch a flight for "regions beyond." I’ll be gone until October 9. My doctoral students will be covering my classes. I love these trips because it gives me an opportunity to flesh out what I teach in the seminary. Please pray for Becky and Nigusse while I'm away. I won't be blogging about my travels but your intercession would be appreciated.
Tuesday, September 20
7:58 AM Praise God for the work the Lord Jesus is doing through Mammon and Alice Joseph in India. Their visionary outreach is remarkable. A group of us gathered in the home of Kim and Chris Jacobs last night to hear a report.
When the call of God came to go to northeast India, they heeded it -- "on some mad excursion" their friends must have thought. But a call from the Lord cannot be neglected. I can hardly think of a more propitious location for a ministry. You are right there on the border of Nepal, Sikkim, Bangladesh even. Not to put too fine an edge on it, the work is strategic. Little wonder I saw one of our elders speaking with Mammon afterwards about a possible mission trip there. The Gospel is spreading like a wildfire in that area.
Mammon's presentation touched and challenged his audience deeply. The emphasis upon prayer alone is remarkable. Imagine a group of men and women praying for 12 hours a day, every day, for the work of the evangelists as they travel to remote mountain villages to preach the Gospel among unreached people groups. On the whole, American Christians are very prayerless Christians. Not so these Indian believers.
I look forward to teaching in their Bible school one day. Becky is already talking to me about traveling there next March. Imagine that. This is the work of the Gospel. No disease can contain it.
My thanks to Chris and Kim for opening their beautiful home for the meeting last night. Your hospitality was a blessing.
And to all who came -- I trust your time was well spent. If nothing else, let us pray for Mammon and Alice as they continue to serve the Savior in India. He is worthy.
Monday, September 19
8:51 AM Odds and ends ...
1) Pray for Will Graham (grandson of Billy Graham and former SEBTS student) as he preaches in the UK this week.
2) Good news: Young Chinese professionals are eager for genuine community, according to this Christian Post report.
3) Becky's third and final Avastin treatment is scheduled for noon today at UNC.
4) I leave Thursday on my next international trip.
5) Our new grandson:
Sunday, September 18
7:45 PM Our drive north on I-95 took us past historic Fredericksburg and many other Civil War sites, including Chancellorsville and Guiney's Station, where Stonewall Jackson died. The battle of Chancellorsville featured a cast of characters worthy of a Hollywood epic. But to be on the actual battlefield personalizes events as no movie could ever hope to do.
Picture Hooker's 140,000 Federal troops advancing, most of them already on Lee's side of the Rappahannock -- a threat the vastly outnumbered Confederate commander cannot ignore. Lee breaks out of the vice grip by doing the unthinkable. He divides his troops not once but twice. We stood on the exact spot where the Federal army congregated at a crossroads called Chancellorsville, the hub of a vast wheel, troops eager to satisfy Lincoln's request to "go forward and give us victories." It should have been an easy march eastward out of the Wilderness and on to Fredericksburg, an easy victory in fact, crushing Lee between the pincers of two Federal wings. Here I stood, on the ground occupied by General Slocum's Twelfth Corps and Meade's Fifth Corps as they encamped around the Chancellorsville mansion (whose ruins are shown below), ready to strike the fatal blow into the rebels.
"Our enemy must either ingloriously fly or come out from behind his entrenchments and give us battle on our own ground, where certain destruction awaits him" -- thus reads Commanding General Hooker's General Order No. 47. Then Lee went forward to meet him, and Hooker blinked. He halted his troops in the vast, thick Wilderness, went on the defensive as Lee brought up Anderson and McLaws (one drives past "McLaws Avenue"). The Confederates had come out to meet old "Fighting Joe Hooker," now dug in behind trenches and earthworks, a man who had lost his nerve. Hooker had kept his right flank exposed, had not dug in there, was vulnerable to attack, had almost invited it. Lee obliged. Jackson led his 30,000 ragged troops quietly behind the Federal troops and routed them. That night Jackson rode forward into the dark and was mistakenly shot by his own men at this very spot.
In my mind's eye I visualize the bodies scattered beside dying horses, Jackson hit in the left shoulder and right hand, a roar of cannon fire, tree branches flying into pieces, Jackson being picked up by a litter, dropped, landing hard on his side, then suddenly moving again to safety. His left arm is amputated just below the shoulder and arrangements are made for him to be transported away from the shelling to the Chandler plantation along the railroad line at Guiney's Station, to this small building below the main house, a simple, square two-story structure.
In one of the lower rooms a bed has been placed -- the very bed shown here -- in which Jackson is laid and where he holds his infant daughter for the last time and dies, as he always wished to, on a Sunday.
As you stand here there is complete silence in the room save for the clock ticking on a small mantel (the clock too is original).
When Jackson's Monument in New Orleans in unveiled in 1881, Father Hubert of Hay's Louisiana Brigade says in his benediction, "And Thou knowest, O Lord, that when Thou didst decide that the Confederacy should not succeed, Thou hadst first to remove Thy servant Stonewall Jackson." I don't mean to glorify war, but the Civil War is a part of our history as Americans, and by visiting the war's battlefields the tremendous sacrifices of the men on both sides are easier to visualize and the haunting battle scenes stay with you long after you return home. I especially commend to you the Chancellorsville Visitor's Center and its magnificent 25-minute film. Its portrayal of the battle is vividly horrid, of the men who fought it profoundly emotional. I wept as I watched it.
5:04 PM As I said, yesterday's conference was phenomenal. It featured four speakers:
Here's a picture of Nigusse with Russell, the "parachute pilot."
And here's a photo I took just last Sunday of the parachutes our children at Bethel Hill had made for Russell's ministry. As they say, "Small world."
It really goes to show that when it comes to the suffering church, we are all one. Russell put it in words I will never forget: "When you have a heart for the suffering, that is proof that you are a real member of the Body of Christ" (referring to the verse that says, "When one part of the Body suffers, all suffer with it").
Nigu met several Ethiopians at the conference, ex-pats who now live in the U.S. but who still have a heart for the persecuted church. Here's one of them.
During his presentation Russell Stendahl made this statement: "Lukewarmness is not an option for Christianity when you're undergoing intense persecution." That truth burned itself into my mind over and over again during the conference as I heard the testimonies of men and women who have suffered for the cause of Christ. I especially appreciated Gracia's testimony. Americans do not handle deprivations well. How could this frail woman face what she faced, day after day, without food and water, hiking day and night, and then watching her husband die? How could she forgive her captors and then return to the Philippines and begin to work in the prisons with captured Abu Sayyaf terrorists, some of whom were her very own tormentors? Great Christians do not always sit in high places, but wherever they do sit, they grace it with a gentle spirit. Russell is a soft-spoken giant. There is nothing weak or effeminate about him. Anybody can gripe when they've been kidnapped, or when they are shot at while flying over enemy territory. Only great souls are truly kind and forgiving. It takes no talent scout to locate God's man or woman. Their distinguishing mark is a heart set on pleasing God, at all costs, come what may, life or death, or even the loss of a loved one. God is on the lookout for such people even today.
4:02 PM Odds and ends ...
1) Kevin Brown says, Read the Bible!
2) Henry Neufeld reflects on publishing books for the fun of it.
3) Arthur Sido reviews The Politics of Witness. (Yes, as co-editor, I am thrilled to see the positive response to this book.)
4) Becky comments on what it means to rejoice in the Lord.
5) Just found more family pix on Nigusse's camera (if you take 'em, why not show 'em?):
8:42 AM I can't even begin to describe to you how wonderful yesterday's Voice of the Martyrs Conference in northern Virginia was. But that's for later. On the drive to DC we also introduced Nigusse to a bit of Civil War history. That too will have to wait. Before I leave for Durham this morning I only have time to share a few pix of the Blacks with you. We met them in the play area of a gigantic shopping mall on Friday's drive north -- Nigusse's introduction to yet another facet of life in America.
As you can see, Jessica is fully pregnant with her second child, a son. Her due date? October 11.
And here's Mr. Blue Eyes himself. Nolan is all boy, as in "Don't bother me with all them hugs and kisses. Let's rumble!"
Well, it seems that God invented grandfathers for that very purpose.
I'm told Nolan runs on full speed like this all day long without a nap, then crashes and burns at night. If only I had a tenth of his energy.
Got time for one more thing? I think you'll like it.
Yesterday, at 1:51 pm, after a short and uneventful labor, Jessie gave birth to baby boy, weighing in at 6 pounds, 2 ounces. He came 2 and a half weeks early but is doing great. So is she. I couldn't be more grateful to our awesome God.
An eventful weekend, wouldn't you say?
Friday, September 16
8:10 AM Odds and ends ...
1) Michael Burer offers some suggestions about a software app for my Learn to Read New Testament Greek.
2) Arthur Sido believes that the New Testament "takes Paul out of the imaginary study full of scrolls where he spent his time preparing sermons and puts him out among the lost preaching Christ, working for a living among unbelievers, encouraging and equipping the church for the work of ministry so that they would not become overly dependent on him." That is choice. Read his essay Mission as worship.
3) Brian Fulthorp reviews Walking in the Spirit.
4) Read this VOM report about the importance of letter writing and be blessed.
5) Almost forgot to thank my colleague Robert Cole for speaking to my NT 2 class on Wednesday. Bob, you really need to get excited about the Old Testament. You really do.
6) Joel Watts reviews my friend Allan Bevere's new book The Politics of Witness.
7) The weather has turned cool, so much so that we've brought out the sweaters. Sweaters? That's a new concept for Nigusse. As we chatted about what winters are like here in Virginia, Becky and I reminisced about our first winter in Basel. It was so cold that even the Swiss were complaining about the weather. When you went outdoors you donned extra clothes, plus your heavy overcoat, gloves, hat, and scarf. As Becky said, it sure felt good, come April, to be able to hold hands in public again without gloves. Thankfully, it rarely gets that cold here. But you do have to look out for the ice.
Thursday, September 15
8:10 PM A thousand "Thank You's" to my Th.M. student Heebum Lee and his wife YungJu for inviting Nigusse and me over to their apartment for lunch today.
Of course, being the teacher I am, I had to give everyone a quiz. First off, to Heebum: "Where is Ethiopia on the map?" It took him a while, but Heebum finally located it.
Then to Nigusse: "And where is South Korea?" Nigusse needed a bit longer but he finally crowned his efforts with success.
Then to YungJu: "And can you show me where I was born and raised?" Well, seems everyone thought Hawaii, being a state in the Union, was located on the mainland. Finally Heebum remembered that it was an island in the middle of the Pacific. "What's it doing there?" was YungJu's logical question?
Here Heebum and Nigusse are discussing their courses and teachers at the seminary, including Heebum's horribly difficult Greek 3 prof (smile).
YungJu set a wonderful table. Never has food been more beautifully prepared nor has it ever tasted better.
This included Korean dumplings, which I had never before enjoyed despite my 6 trips to South Korea.
I love this photo. Linguists both, Heebum is teaching Nigusse the Korean alphabet (Hangul). They were really in their element.
My thanks to all who have been so generous with their time and hospitality with Nigusse. It has helped him, I'm sure, to bridge the considerable gap between his Ethiopian culture and ours. Toss chopsticks and kimchi into the mix, and you have a recipe for some of the greatest food and fellowship on the planet.
6:25 PM If you are a worship leader, I invite you to read my latest essay at DBO: Missions As a Lifestyle of Worship.
6:22 PM I learned this week that my former horse Traveler had to be put down due to an incurable hoof problem. I had given him to a wonderful family that loved riding. Honestly, it had gotten to the point where I couldn't handle Trav any longer. When I first got him we were both a lot younger. His speed was phenomenal. After all, he had raced in California. He had a very highly developed sense of hearing, eyesight, smell – and shyness. He was suspicious of any sound or movement. I tried to teach him dressage movements but it was largely a lost cause. In the end, I let him, as a Thoroughbred, do what he did best: run.
There are a lot of reasons why people ride horses. I rode partly for fun, and partly for exercise. I enjoyed learning Trav's language. I enjoyed schooling myself as much as I schooled him. Horses are extraordinary animals. They are unlike any other animal I know. No other animal can be so abused, mishandled, and mistreated and still try to serve his master willingly and to the best of his ability. Through practice Traveler and I developed a close bond. He was never an easy ride. That's why I let him go. I simply got too old for him. My Thoroughbred Traveler took more care, more skilful handling, than my other horse Cody, a sensible Arabian. But I loved him no less. Traveler, you will be missed. Thank you for all the pleasure you gave me, so freely, so willingly. You will never be forgotten.
An old friend:
6:16 PM A groundbreaking new website has been launched by one of our Southeastern grads. It's all about Greek and especially about Greek pedagogy. Check it out here and be sure to add it to your bookmarks. No doubt in my mind: the coming generational shift in the way we teach Greek is already upon us, and it is all for the good.
6:12 PM Christianity Today has just published an important essay called Muslim Missions: Then & Now. Share it with your small group and then pray for an outpouring of God's Spirit upon the Muslim world.
6:07 PM Live in the Durham/Chapel Hill area and are unchurched? Join me this Sunday at the Chinese Christian Mission Church at 10:00. Directions are here.
6:02 PM Cedarville University seeks to fill its Chair in the Department of Biblical and Ministry Studies.
Monday, September 12
9:38 PM Just back. Had a great day. Nigusse gave us a royal homecoming when we walked through the front door. We also wished him a Happy Ethiopian New Years Day. Right now it's time to prep for the week's classes.
Oh, if you're ever in Roanoke, Virginia, you must try the Red Palace Chinese restaurant. The Gung Pao Chicken is out of this world.
8:27 AM This week on campus ...
1) In Greek 1 we are being quizzed over second declension nouns and introducing the first declension. I am toying with the idea of having a pop Spelling B -- first five to the board, with the prize being a free copy of one of my other books.
2) In Greek 3 we're covering the chapter on phonology in my Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek. You know, Grimm's and Grassmann's Laws and all that. Lots of examples from the Greek New Testament.
3) In NT 2 I'll be exegeting in detail two passages from Galatians (3:1-5 and 5:1-6) and my colleague Robert Cole will be waxing elephant on the topic "Paul's Use of the Old Testament in Galatians." I've also asked my students to learn by heart Gal. 2:20 and 5:1. We'll see who gave this a try!
4) Nigusse calls each of our trips to campus a "missionary journey." This week will make our fourth such trip. "One more than the apostle Paul had," Nigusse reminded me with a smile. I tell you, the man is irrepressibly joyful.
8:22 AM This morning B and I are heading out for breakfast and a nice country drive to enjoy this gorgeous day in southern Virginia.
Sunday, September 11
2:58 PM As promised yesterday, I offer here some not very profound thoughts about marriage on this, my 35th wedding anniversary.
1) Because married couples do not experience the satisfaction that only comes from resting in God's character, they look to their partners to meet their needs. If you do not have joy in your marriage, the fault does not lie with your spouse, no matter how disagreeable he or she may be. The problem is your deficient awareness of the goodness of the Lord. Christ is adequate to meet our needs fully. He is the only one who makes us secure and significant.
2) No problem is beyond God's power to resolve. At any time we can come boldly before the throne of grace and trust His adequacy to help us through our circumstances for His glory and our blessing. God's grace is sufficient. Please remember that, all of you twenty and thirty somethings out there when you reach a seemingly irredeemable low point in your marriage -- and you surely will.
3) Finally, let's learn to live for something bigger than our marriage. I said as much in my essay A Great Commission Marriage. No, I am not denying that a deep experience of personal intimacy through a relationship with a person of the opposite sex is a legitimate need in life. And I certainly believe that God intended marriage to meet that need. My point is that we must never allow marital happiness or satisfaction to assume greater priority in our lives than simply doing whatever God tells us to do. I am unalterably opposed to any notion of marriage and the family that places marriage and the family above the kingdom.
I'm not sure I understand it, but I've got this feeling that I should know a lot more about marriage than I do even though I've been married all these years. Down through the centuries, common men and women, average husbands and wives, have caused remarkable things to happen for God when His power and passion invaded their souls. This is the work of the Spirit of God as He comes to us in all of our weakness and frailty as human beings. He enlivens us, quickens us, empowers us to go on. "You shall receive power," Christ said. I for one am tired of those who claim to hold the "secret" to a happy and fulfilled Christian marriage. We have over-complicated our God and His way of doing things. A daily intimacy with Him, a walking in His Spirit, a quiet confidence in His unchanging character -- perhaps these are the overlooked "keys" to the marriage God desires for you and for me.
Saturday, September 10
8:54 PM Care to go fishing with us today? The Jacobs and the Humphreys did just that, followed by a cookout on the grill and some good old-fashioned country redneck fellowship on the front porch. Life don't get no better, folks. Here are the pix to prove it. Talk to you tomorrow.
12:40 PM Over at the Bethel Hill blog, Jay and Christi Burke share their testimony of God's faithfulness in the midst of their baby's heartbreaking diagnosis of anencephaly. They write:
You can read the rest of their powerful testimony here: In Time of Trouble.
10:45 AM Yes, Mark, I'm jealous of your wife's superb garden!
10:34 AM If you haven't read Thomas Hudgin's recent post on the translation of Matthew 6:9 ("Hallowed by thy name"), I would urge you to do so. Thomas explores an essay written by my friend and colleague Jesús Peláez (pictured below) that argues for the rendering "May your name be proclaimed" (or something similar to that). Certainly this translation is possible; and I wonder if it is more in keeping with the missional emphasis of Matthew's Gospel. In essence, Jesus is teaching us to pray that God's "name" (character, person, salvation) might become known among the nations, which, of course, is the very essence of Matthew's Great Commission as recorded in Matthew 29:19-20. I intend to explore the matter in more detail when I return to my office next week (where my lexicons and concordances are interred).
Brief anecdote: Jesús, who teaches New Testament at the University of Córdoba, invited me to lecture in Spain several years ago during one of their summer school sessions on the Costa del Sol. Imagine having to suffer for a week on the beaches of southern Spain, all for a one hour lecture. (The topic, if I recall, was Gnosticism in the Gospel of John.) At any rate, I decided I would gird up my loins and give my little talk in Spanish -- though it happened that before my lecture could be published it had to be "translated" into Spanish, meaning, of course, Castellano. Apparently I had spoken with a very Latin American flavor. Another reminder, I guess, that God did a really good job when He messed things up at Babel.
9:55 AM Tomorrow is a very special anniversary. No, not 9/11. It looked more like this:
That was 35 years ago. More "thoughts on an anniversary" tomorrow.
9:47 AM Imago Dei Church launches tomorrow. Praying for my colleague Tony Merida and crew. Tony will begin teaching from Galatians on "A Gospel Centered Church." Blessings to all.
9:41 AM They have arrived!
Friday, September 9
12:28 PM Arthur Sido chimes in on my Global Missions essay. Thanks Arthur. We've never met but we are kindred spirits. One of the blessings of the worldwide web.
12:23 PM This afternoon I have a praise and a prayer request from Alaba:
1) Praise God that our Nathan was checked out for Hepatitis and was found free of this dreaded disease. Now we will try our best to put some meat on those little bones of his in preparation for his eye surgery.
2) Please pray for Nathan's father Tilahun who is flat on his back suffering from both Typhoid and Typhus.
Tilahun has had to assume many of Nigusse's responsibilities in Alaba during our son's studies here in the U.S. May the Spirit heal Tilahun's body and restore him to health and strength soon.
11:24 AM Take a look at this awesome mural that our youth at Bethel Hill made for yours truly.
I am going to proudly display it in my office at school.
2,000 years ago a group of 11 men set out to evangelize the world. Within 30 years Christianity was so notorious a movement in Rome that Nero could blame Christians for the Great Fire of AD 64. Today the Christian Movement has captivated a multiplicity of races and cultures. But so much more needs to be done.
This mural will be a constant spur in my saddle that the Great Commission is still in effect, and that I am called upon to do my part, little though that may be.
Thank you, one and all, for this gracious gift of love. I will cherish it always.
10:06 AM Persecution of the church continues worldwide. Are we remembering to pray for our brothers and sisters?
9:37 AM Alan Knox defines the downward path of Jesus.
8:52 AM Looking for a good movie to watch this weekend? Why not try "Seabiscuit"? I reviewed it here. This was one of my takeaways from the movie:
This is where I am at in my life right now as a professional educator. A student asked me the other day, "What are your goals for the next few years?" To be honest, I'm not sure that I have any. 35 years ago, when I was fresh out of the starting gate, I was full of eagerness. Goals I had, aplenty. Today the tendency is to sit back and relax. At our faculty workshop this fall I was reminded that a teacher can never become smug. There is always room for improvement, both in and out of the classroom. One change I've made is showing up early for class. Just hanging out with the students gives them a chance to talk with you (if they want to) without having to make the long trek to your office. Another change is having mid-term course evaluations, rather than leaving these for the end of the semester. I'm also being more intentional about visiting my colleagues' offices to chat and pray with them. I'm sure there are many other "adjustments" I need to make. (I have some publishing goals I will share with you later.) But let's never become complacent. Growth is not something just for upstarts. It's for all of us. Even us long-shots. Take if from Seabiscuit's trainer.
8:24 AM Toccoa Falls College announces an opening in Pastoral Ministries, while Houston Baptist University is offering a post-doctoral position in Pauline Theology.
8:12 AM Good read here: Alvin Reid on how to minister to a generation of young people who long for mentors.
8:02 AM New essay up at DBO: Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions?
Thursday, September 8
5:27 PM There are several new entries at the Under Christ's Archy website, hosted by publisher Henry Neufeld. The latest entry, by Arthur Sido, contains this great quote:
5:22 PM Yesterday Doc Reid spoke to us from 1 Thessalonians 1-2 on evangelism. It was powerful.
A few quotable quotes:
I'd have tweeted these during class except I don't do Twitter.
5:14 PM Looking ahead …
1) Excitement is building for Becky's organizational class for women this Saturday here at the farm from 9:00 to 12:30.
2) Lord willing, Becky and I will be attending the regional Voice of the Martyrs conference in Richmond on Saturday, September 17. Speakers include Gracia Burnham. In 2001, a militant Muslim group kidnapped Martin and Gracia Burnham, missionaries to the Philippines. The Burnhams were in captivity for 376 days. During a rescue attempt by the Philippine Army in June, 2002, Martin was killed and Gracia was wounded. Her story is told in the books In the Presence of My Enemies and To Fly Again.
3) On Monday evening, September 19, you're invited to hear Mammen and Alice Joseph share about their work in northeast India at the home of Chris and Kim Jacobs in Bethel Hill, NC. Specifics later.
4) I leave on my next international "business" trip in exactly two weeks. I never cease to be amazed that the Father takes us into His family and gives us a share in the family business.
5:11 PM Allan Bevere explains what pastors should say on the tenth anniversary of 9/11.
5:04 PM My top 5 recommended books in the seminary bookstore. All Greek and Hebrew texts (except for the concordance)!
Monday, September 5
9:10 PM Don't forget: My colleague Alvin Reid will be our guest speaker in NT 2 this week. His topic is "Evangelism in the Early Church." It's all a part of our study of the Thessalonian epistles. You can join us in Binckley 102 this Wednesday from 2:00 - 3:20.
Meanwhile, Nigu is studying hard for his first Hebrew vocabulary quiz tomorrow morning. Can he maintain his momentum? Can he learn to think and read backwards? Stay tuned ....
11:35 AM This morning Becky served a wonderful breakfast for a very wonderful family visiting us from northeastern India. Mammen and Alice Joseph direct the Peniel Gospel Team in Bagdogra, Bengal. Their ministry is variegated to say the least: from church planting to children's homes to free schools for impoverished kids to mission teams to biblical education. They currently work not only in India but also among the people of Nepal, Sikkim, and the Muslims of Bangladesh. Here Nigusse, who is currently taking a missions course at the seminary, listens intently as Mammen explains how he left Kerala in southern India to begin this work 35 years ago.
Alice is as deeply involved in the work as her husband is as she teaches sewing skills to the ladies of the region thus allowing them to escape the seedier occupations of life.
I was introduced to Mammen and Alice by their son Moncy who has taken me for several classes and who is planning on returning to Bagdogra this December after his graduation from SEBTS to assist in the work there.
For more information about the work of the Peniel Gospel Team, go to their website. In the meantime, if you would like Mammen to speak to your church or small group, you can contact me and I will put you in touch with him. Believe me, the work of God in their region of India is absolutely amazing! Mammen and Alice will be in the States for another month or so.
Sunday, September 4
8:07 PM Very excited to see a major storm system on its way into the area. Only wish my head wouldn't have to remind me that the barometer is changing.
7:58 PM Brother Craig makes some awfully good points about self-support. I am so very impressed with the New Testament church, the way they had everything in common, the way in which their loving fellowship broke down the barriers between races and income levels. One cannot fail to notice that whether it was Paul or the volunteers who brought the Gospel to Antioch, the early church was compelled by its concern for others. I suppose that's the main point of the discussion about salaried positions. Is our fellowship real? Are we willing to sacrifice for others? It costs a lot, of course, to live like this. And so I must be coming back, again and again, to the question: Dave, are you being spent for the sake of other people? If you are, it will be only because the Holy Spirit is sweeping like a raging fire in your heart, freeing you from your selfishness.
By the way, just this afternoon I translated a verse from the New Testament that I had never before rendered into English, if you can believe that. The Lord led me to Titus 3:14, a verse containing numerous exegetical conundrums, but this is what I ended up with, and it is indeed convicting: "Our people must learn how to spend their time practicing good works in order to provide for the pressing needs of others, otherwise they will live fruitless lives." Paid to do "ministry" or not, we must, every one of us, be about practicing good works, which means providing for the genuine needs of others who are in more difficult straights than we are, for if we do not live in this way our lives will be useless for the kingdom.
The early church was a church that looked beyond itself. May that be true of my church as well.
7:20 PM Boy am I starved. B is making tilapia and jasmine rice for supper. I'm drooling....
Saturday, September 3
8:15 PM Whenever I see this kind of blog post I am forced to ask myself, Can the good ever become the enemy of the best? We know who the Pharisees were. They were famous for being extremely zealous for the lesser things of the Law (e.g., tithing) while neglecting the greater things of the Law, things such as mercy and grace. It is our human tendency to major on the minors. I suffer from this disease and so do you. The good can so easily become the enemy of the best. Of course, the good is better than the bad. I suppose that's Eric's point (though I don't want to put words in his mouth). I don't doubt his sincerity, nor do I question his love for the church. I'm afraid, however, that if he is not careful, he will soon find himself among a company of saints who think of Christians as all bad or good. They rejoice in the ideal church but refuse to work with ordinary believers because of the latter's "obvious" weaknesses and shortcomings. They are critical, condescending, and censorious -- how else can one interpret the word "Sigh"? -- of the imperfections of their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
All of us, regardless of the local church we attend, need to do a better job at being the people of God in our city. If perhaps we spent more time living in self-judgment than in judging others, it would be better for us all. True perfectionists know they are not perfect and are therefore patient with others. They also realize that it is easily possible for them to criticize some servant of the Lord until they come dangerously close to ascribing his or her ministry to the devil.
6:02 PM Can you tell I haven't picked up hay in a while?
My hand just asked me, "Will you please make up your mind what you want to be when you grow up -- a farmer OR a scholar?"
4:58 PM I think I told you that I'll be speaking on tentmaking as the norm for missions in my Wednesday NT 2 class. Here's an essay that I've linked to before but I think it might be helpful to link to again: Should Pastors Be Salaried? It's interesting to hear just how many of my students are seriously considering becoming fulltime tentmaking missionaries to the world.
Oh, Nigusse spoke with Tilahun this afternoon, and it seems that Nathan was not strong enough for his surgery so the doctor asked his parents to take him home and try and strengthen his little body. Right now B. and Nigu have gone to Wal-Mart to get some vitamins and food supplements for little Nathan, who has difficulty eating and staying healthy. If it's not malaria it's hepatitis.
I hope you have an enjoyable and relaxing Labor Day weekend wherever you are. We're going to stay here at home and enjoy some time off, except for Monday when we will be hosting an Indian family for breakfast and a Chinese family for lunch!
2:35 PM Good news! My 10 step approach to exegesis has just been published in Chinese. Please tell all of your Mandarin-speaking friends about it!
12:34 PM Gotta run to Ace Hardware but before I do might I ask you to pray for our little Nathan, who is in Addis for corrective eye surgery along with his mom and dad Aberesh and Tilahun?
Nathan, we love you!
12:25 PM Boston University announces an opening in Modern Christianity.
12:15 PM Just a very quick response to Mark Steven's foray into the world of graduate education (his post is attractively entitled Scholars, Pastors, and Idolatry ...). He is absolutely correct in insisting that the distinction between academy and church is a false one. Of my own doctoral students I'd say that half are pastors and the other half hope to make a career of it in teaching fulltime. The one thing that I think perhaps is missing in the discussion is the aspect of mentoring. That is to say, many of us who ended up studying abroad in the 70s and 80s did so because we were eager to study under the tutelage of a particular New Testament scholar, be mentored by them, "shaped," if you will, by their lives and writings. Studying in Basel was delightful beyond words and it did me a world of good professionally beside the fact that I got to spend time with a man whom many considered to be one of the top New Testament scholars of his day. I never had more fun or enjoyed anything more thoroughly. I regretted intensely that Professor Reicke passed away so soon after I had established myself to a degree in the world of education for I had looked forward to many more happy years of discussing with him various issues in the field of New Testament interpretation (I had just begun getting my feet wet in the synoptic problem at the time). Bo and Ingelisa Reicke were exceedingly kind to me at Basel even though as Americans we were pathetically friendly and loquacious. I'm delighted that Mark, as a pastor, is continuing his formal education, not because a formal education is necessary for pastoral ministry (it most certainly is not), but because of the opportunity it affords of studying under some pretty fantastic men and women of God whose influence will be more than subtle I'm sure.
Speaking of Mark (my fellow blogo-gardener), here's a picture I snapped this morning just after Becky had returned from picking our veggies.
And this doesn't include the okra she picked yesterday!
9:04 AM This morning Kyle Davis, one of my teaching assistants, sent me a link to this excellent essay: The Method of Teaching New Testament Greek (.pdf). Of the several takeaways I got from reading it, this one is perhaps the most important:
Amen and amen! This is one reason I have reduced memorization to an absolute minimum in my own beginning grammar, Learn to Read New Testament Greek, and instead focus on teaching students basic principles of noun and verb morphology. Once you understand how language works, that information will stick with you a lot longer than had you simply memorized a long list of paradigms.
So grateful for colleagues who teach Greek and who are open to newer methods of pedagogy and linguistic approaches to the language. Why make the subject any more difficult than it already is?
Friday, September 2
6:29 PM Time for some Chinese food. Let's see ... shall I teach Nigusse how to cook it?
2:28 PM Heart-breaking story here: Ranchers are having to sell their herds due to the severe drought in Texas. Makes you appreciate the rain shower you had this morning in southern Virginia. After Nigu and I put up the last bale of hay in the barn last night we paused, bowed our heads, and offered up a prayer of thanks for every leaf of grass God provided so that our animals might survive the winter. I tell you, that news story grabbed my soul. Life on a farm is both fantastic and frustrating. Just ask any farmer. There are no short cuts. You ultimately have to just trust the Creator and Sustainer of all life.
1:58 PM This week I completed the editing of what I believe may well become one of the most important and helpful books ever to have been written on the difficult subject of Christian marriage and divorce. The book is entitled Except for Fornication: The Teaching of the Lord Jesus on Divorce and Remarriage.
From the author page:
This book strikes me as a model of exegesis and interpretation. Not all will agree with its conclusions, but few, I believe, will be able to ignore its biblical arguments.
1:40 PM King's College (Pennsylvania) announces an opening in Theology.
1:22 PM My brief series on Philippians arose from a Bible Study at my home church on Wednesday evenings. For four weeks we studied this short epistle, and each week I have tried to summarize a few of my takeaways. Why bother? Because Paul was gripped with the Gospel! He was consumed with a passion to spread the Good News. That message so gripped him that he gave up everything he had to live for the sake of others. And it cost him his life. This is, of course, the way I am to live, and the way you are to live if you are a follower of Jesus.
What, then, are some lasting lessons from the closing chapter of Philippians? There are at least five.
1) Women are invaluable in the kingdom (4:2-3). There are two themes in 4:2-3. The first is that the church must never allow itself to be polarized around personalities. Nothing must trump the Gospel -- a truth so important that Paul actually names names. The second theme is more subtle but no less important. Paul has a great deal to say about the value of women in Christian ministry. Euodia and Syntyche had "worked very hard with me to spread the Gospel." What an amazing compliment! I have written about this elsewhere (see Partners in the Gospel). In a day of overzealous patriarchy it is good to remember that Christian women no less than men can set the world on fire for Christ.
2) Stop worrying (4:6)! Well did Spurgeon say that a fish might fret about enough water in the sea before a Christian need be bothered over the sufficiency of God's grace. Our Father knows our every need. And if we approach Him with a thankful heart we will never need to grovel in despair over our needs.
3) Our true strength comes from Christ alone (4:13). Nothing under the sun can be as pitiful as "church work" without the Spirit. No wonder we grow weary in well doing. Without the power of the indwelling Christ we are nothing but shorn Samsons in a treadmill. Do not seek to do His will in your own strength but move on to the blessedness of His all-sufficient grace.
4) It is truly a blessing to give to others (4:18). Our generosity is "like a sweet-smelling offering to God, a sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to Him." There is no place in the will of God for a stingy heart. We are to be generous if we are Christians. In Christ, God is always giving, and since we have freely received we freely give of self and time and possessions. This is no day for a church to be centered on itself.
5) God loves up-and-outers too (4:22)! Those who belonged to the Emperor's household had come to faith in Christ as a result of Paul's preaching in prison. Jesus preached to the throngs but He also spoke to Nicodemus. Paul witnessed to kings and magistrates. The truth is, all men and women need the Gospel, regardless of their station in life. You are passing by VIPs every day. You meet principals and physicians. It ought to make a difference when you pass by. The only Christ that most professionals will ever see is the Christ who lives in you. Before you start out for the day, pray that everyone you contact may perceive that you are a man or woman of God.
12:12 PM Yesterday I gave Nigusse a copy of my Why Four Gospels? Last night he eagerly began reading it. This morning I asked him if he had finished it. "I fell asleep," was his reply.
Dave Black's Pulitzer-Prize-Losing books: The perfect cure for insomnia.
12:02 PM Our new campus bookstore manager asked the faculty to send him a list of the 5 books we would urge our students to acquire. He would then post them for all to see. I wrote back to clarify: Do you mean books in biblical studies? The answer was yes, so off went the following list:
1) A Greek New Testament
2) A Hebrew Old Testament
3) A Greek Old Testament
4) A Hebrew New Testament
5) A concordance to each of the above
I doubt that my list will get published; he was probably looking for current titles by famous authors. But I'm serious. If you don't have these books I do not see how you can engage in biblical studies at all. The constant cry of my heart in the past few years has been Ad fontes and I don't see why my own students should be exempt from focusing on the primary sources.
Thursday, September 1
7:44 PM A millions thanks to Nate for baling the hay and to Nigusse for helping Becky and me get up about 80 bales this afternoon before the rain hit us.
Today was also a hugely important day in the life of our Ethiopian son in that he had his first driving lesson, which he passed, I am proud to say, with flying colors.
Picking up hay is a rite of passage of sorts on a farm. One never forgets one's first time inhaling and choking on minute blades of grass.
Welcome to farm life, Nigusse. I guess we can now call you a genuine country red neck.
2:50 PM A few mid-week items of interest …
1) It's finally here. The Greek alphabet song – in Spanish – that is. Next thing you know, we'll be rapping it.
2) I just added to my speaking schedule a 2-day Bible conference at Hunt Springs Baptist Church in Sanford, NC, in November. I will ask Nigusse to join me for at least one of the 4 services and help me teach. I love team ministry.
3) Becky recently posted an essay with a most unusual title: How's your Wanter? Like everything Becky writes, it is excellent.
4) If you are planning on attending Becky's 8-week financial planning workshop, you are in for a real treat. It kicks off next Wednesday evening at 6:30. The venue is Bethel Hill Baptist Church. Our address is 201 Old US Hwy 501, Roxboro, NC 27574, in case you want to Google for directions.
5) I took these pictures yesterday of Nigusse meeting with Danny Akin and Ken Keathley, our president and dean.
It was fun riding Nigusse’s coattails.
6) A thousand thanks to Alan Knox who shared so wonderfully in our NT 2 class yesterday on what the church in Acts looked liked.
In essence he asked, How can what happened in the early church happen today? The conclusion? Where the Holy Spirit is the mentor and guide, all things are possible. Personally, I thank God for young men like Alan who have begun traveling the downward path of Jesus and are showing the rest of us the way we are to go. May his generation help mine to find the courage to turn the world upside down for Christ.
7) My colleague Bruce Ashford just had his first book released. Be sure to check it out.
From the publisher’s blurb:
Congrats bro. But where's my copy?
8) Speaking of new books, Mark Stevens posted an excellent review of Ben Witherington's latest tome called Is There a Doctor in the House?, which is essential reading for anyone interested in pursuing a doctorate in biblical studies.