August 2011 Blog Archives
Monday, August 29
9:18 AM Got this email today:
Nice thought, but the truth is you can change your Levis but you can't change your genes.
9:10 AM Program note: This Wednesday in NT 2 we will be in the book of Acts. Alan Knox will be our guest speaker. Care to join us? We meet in Binckley 102. Alan will speak from 2:00 to 3:20. All are welcome to attend these guest lectures.
In the meantime, a word of advice. If you want to figure out what a New Testament church looks like, don't spend your time in a library trying to work out a theory. Go to Jesus for yourself. You have the Bible and you have the Holy Spirit who inspired it. Books and lectures have their place, but it is at best a secondary place. Bring your questions to the Lord with the simplicity of a little child and He will answer you.
Next week: Alvin Reid on "Evangelism in the Earliest Church."
8:55 AM Last week the semester began. That was the easy part. Now the real work begins. It will be one long slugging match. Are you ready to move forward? "Brother, if you would enter that province, you must go forward on your knees" (J. Hudson Taylor).
Sunday, August 28
5:36 PM Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary announces an opening in New Testament Studies.
5:25 PM Help Wanted! If you know Spanish and would be willing to read the initial draft of the Spanish edition of my Learn to Read New Testament Greek, we could use your help. Go here for more information.
1:26 PM My father-in-law sent along this beautiful picture:
Need a word of encouragement today? How about Ruth 2:12: "May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge." May God, this day, cover you with His feathers.
12:46 PM Check out the Bethel Hill Family News. Lots of kingdom-focused activities for all ages.
8:10 AM Eugene Nida has died at the age of 96. It is largely the result of his influence that I prefer renderings such as "share what you have with God's people who are in need" to "distributing to the needs of the saints." I will never forget the shock (and delight) when I learned that Gene had agreed to write a blurb for the cover of my book Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek. I recommend the writings of Nida for any beginner in Greek who seeks a better understanding of how the language actually works.
7:42 AM Some excellent reasons to study Hebrew and Greek.
7:33 AM Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba: 4 women who speak of the Gospel. Great truths from Matt. 1:3-6 this morning.
7:27 AM This is what Irene looked like as she left the Virginia Piedmont for points north last night.
The fact that "Irene" means "Peace" was an irony not lost on Greek students. Looks like Richmond was especially hard hit. Be careful out there.
Saturday, August 27
2:06 PM Odds and ends ...
1) Becky seems to be on the mend. She had a good nap today and is recovering the use of her elbow. Praise the Lord.
2) Nigusse has been studying missions all day long. We've given him the entire upstairs space to work in. We call it "the upper room."
3) Other than some wind gusts and rain we seem to have escaped the brunt of Lady Irene. Our lights flickered a few times but no power outages -- yet.
4) I'm gearing up for my message at the Chinese Christian Mission Church in Durham tomorrow morning. They are only 5 minutes from Duke. Hoping to meet many university students there.
5) We introduced Nigu to BELT sandwiches for lunch today. Tonight the master chef is preparing Chinese cuisine, with his top secret ingredient of course. The only people in the entire universe who know what it is are the Rondeau boys, and they're not telling.
11:43 AM The question is being asked: Whither "New Testament Studies"? We hear complaints about over-specialization, lack of breadth, and misuse of secondary sources. All well and good. And to be sure, had I to do it all over again, I would have not majored in Biblical Studies in my undergraduate program but in history or classical languages instead. As for breadth, the main reason I chose to write my doctoral dissertation on astheneia and its cognates in the Pauline epistles was the challenge this topic posed for me in a wide variety of disciplines, including biblical theology, lexicography, historiography, issues of pseudonymity, etc.
But surely there is something missing in this discussion, and it is the elephant in the room: It is sadly possible to be an "expert" in the New Testament and completely miss its heartbeat, which surely is something other than scholarship. The New Testament requires that we go out of our way, eagerly and voluntarily, to accept assignments that involve sacrifice, that we say no to upward mobility, that we even be willing to deny the normal minimum needs of the body for the sake of others' souls. Yes, I realize that if you are a Greek scholar and start talking (and acting) like this you will be accused of "going off the deep end." But, in my opinion, until we learn to lay aside our reliance on every human resource and learn to make waiting on God the number one priority in life, we will remain in the kindergarten of learning.
I'm convinced that, if more and more of those who profess to be New Testament scholars would adopt this kind of radical, sharing lifestyle of the New Testament, we would turn our world upside down for Christ.
10:22 AM So how did Nigusse's first week on campus go? Fabulously. Becky guided him from place to place.
The grand tour included a certain professor's office (cough, cough). Spartan, huh?
Then it was off to chapel to await the start of convocation.
Here they come!
A solemn moment -- Tony Merida officially joins the faculty. Welcome, O hairy one!
This is Nigu's missions class with George Robinson. Right now they are studying about the 10-40 window.
And here's the dormitory where we spend the night.
I snapped this picture at 11:30 pm. Nigusse is studying for his Hebrew quiz. The poor guy can barely keep his eyes open.
How did he do? A perfect 100. I think that deserves a MacDonald's ice cream cone on the way home, don't you?
I'm grateful for Southeastern and its focus on the cross. There is no place in Jesus' band of disciples for those who are not willing to accept suffering and uncertainty. We have millions of theology books today and more head knowledge than ever before in Christian history, but what good will any of this do unless we pick up the towel and the basin? We will stand powerless and defeated.
Heartfelt thanks to all who pray for our son so faithfully. Don't stop now.
Friday, August 26
9:55 PM Just back from the emergency room at Halifax Hospital in South Boston. Becky had a fall while taking a walk with Nigusse in the valley this afternoon. Lots of pain and bruising but, thank God, x-rays showed nothing broken. Please pray for quick healing; we do have an Avastin treatment scheduled for Monday. God knows....
2:30 PM Due to the threat of heavy rains and winds we have cancelled our Ethiopia orientation tomorrow and will instead do our work by remote. When you receive Becky's handouts via email attachment, pretend she has just handed them to you in class. Stay safe everybody, and we'll see you at our next meeting, Lord willing.
12:52 PM I had to miss Wednesday's Bible Study in Philippians 3 but that didn't keep me from reading and meditating upon that great chapter. Here are my takeaways:
1) Beware legalism (3:2-3)! Paul is insistent that "we do not put our trust in external things." God is on the lookout for those through whom He can demonstrative the Spirit's power. They are not showing off what they can do. Some people make the tithe the mark of genuine Christianity. In Paul's day that mark was circumcision. There will never be a shortage of legalistic markers, of ways we can flex our muscles and announce what we are doing for God. In an age of legalism, we need men and women who refuse to trust in external ceremonies.
2) "Mere garbage" (3:8). This is the most famous euphemism in the New Testament. Paul uses an expression that carries a highly offensive connotation. Perhaps the best we can do in English is "unspeakable filth." Many people who call themselves Christians have never arrived at the point at calling their assets "debits," or their accomplishments "manure." Our Lord invites us to gain Him and reckon everything else as complete loss for the sake of what is so much more valuable. Paul exclaims, "All I want is to know Him!" God intended that we be more than believers. He wants us to be knowers. What is in view here in an intimate knowledge, like that of a married couple. It is of first importance that Christians learn to relate to their Lord in love and intimacy.
3) We are to "forget what is behind" (3:13). When Cortez and his men landed in the New World, they burned their ships and so eliminated the means of returning to their homeland. Christians must let go of the past. We must burn our boats and our bridges. There is to be no retreating, no wallowing in regret, no glorying in past victories. "Let the dead bury the dead," said Jesus. "I run straight toward the goal to win the prize," says Paul. Both might have agreed with the hymnist: "I have decided to follow Jesus; / No turning back, no turning back."
4) Imitation is the key to education (3:17). "Keep on imitating me," writes Paul. Christian education is likeness education. So taught Jesus (Luke 6:40). Like father like son. Like pulpit like pew. This is a day when education has been reduced to mere information. But our Lord is not content with information; He seeks transformation. We cannot truly grow as Christians without godly examples. True believers always seek role models. Do not be content with facts. Find a mentor -- and then watch them and grow!
5) "We are citizens of heaven" (3:20). There is a lot of misunderstanding today about politics among Christians. A Christian is a citizen of a heavenly commonwealth because he or she belongs to the holy nation of the people of God. America may contain many Christians, but it can never be a "Christian nation." There will never be a Christian nation except the one composed of men and women redeemed by the blood of Christ. It is time for our true patriotism to show. Republicans and Democrats live to show forth the praises of their candidates, but God's people live to show forth the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.
6) A change is coming (3:21)! One day "He will change our weak mortal bodies and make them like His own glorious body." One day Christ will gather up all the loose ends and ragged corners and perfect the garment. Cancer? Gone! Pain? No more! This is a great hope. But it should not make us complacent. Let's not postpone to the resurrection what can be achieved in the present body -- even if that means dying for the sake of the Gospel.
12:22 PM Here is the latest photo from Zobechame:
Isn't this great?
Better yet, isn't our God great? I shouldn't be, but I am amazed at how God has provided for the construction of this church building in one of the most prosperous Muslim areas in all of Ethiopia, despite the most severe opposition. The awful truth, whether I admit it or not, is that I don't really trust Him. I must yearn to become like Jesus, who had childlike faith in His Father. I must take my eyes off myself -- and others -- and gaze at Him. He alone should be my standard. Let's praise Him for what He is doing in faraway Alaba! Let His kingdom expand among the nations!
11:58 AM Congratulations to my colleague Sam Williams, Professor of Counseling, who received this year's Teacher of the Year Award on Tuesday. No one is more deserving, Sam. Blessings on you, brother.
Thursday, August 25
4:36 PM I have to smile whenever I think of Nigusse being here in America. The U.S. is, for him and for his generation of Ethiopians, the place to live. The attraction of America -- our culture, our music, our technology, our inventions -- is strong everywhere, except perhaps in Europe, where I studied. Student life in Switzerland was marvelous, but resentment of America was rife, particularly among the elites. Now, here's the oddest thing of all: the attraction of the U.S. can become Nigusse's greatest enemy while he is here. Joseph Joffe, the German foreign policy expert, once wrote, "America is both menace and seducer, both monster and model." Boy was he right. Yes, I am glad that Nigusse can study here. But I am even gladder that he is wary of succumbing to what is worst in our culture. That is a hugely important awareness. Nothing good will come of his education here if he ends up acting just like a U.S. citizen pursuing the idol of the American dream.
4:22 PM Have you noticed? The blogosphere has plateaud. Blogs, including mine, have become predictable. I know exactly what I'll find at your blog because it's the same thing I found there yesterday. The blogosphere has come full cycle. I began blogging about 9 years ago. At that time the blogging curve was soaring upward, until it eventually reached atmospheric heights. Now everyone blogs. And because we blog, and blog the same things day after day, the blog curve has sunken into a trough of disillusionment. Two years ago I may have been an avid reader of your blog. Today I rarely visit it. Nowadays, the focus has shifted to other instruments of social revolution. How this will play out in the future, no one knows. But I do know that blogs are boring. Most of them, that is. My guess is that many of you are thinking the same thing about DBO. If you do, I don't blame you one bit.
4:15 PM I have a confession to make. I do not use a cell phone. The reason is simple. I refuse to bow down to cyber-serfdom. Being phone-less allows me, for example, to have a conversation without the continuous flow of interactions demanded by callers. Did I say "interactions"? Another word might be "interruptions." Sure, you can always turn your phone off. For a while at least. All that means is that you'll face a backlog of calls. I am struck by how many people assume I'm cell phone connected. "No cell?" they ask incredulously.
Or do I detect a tone of jealously?
4:05 PM A few odds and ends …
1) In case you were wondering why I've been silent, yes, our modem went out again after another lightening storm. We just got it fixed.
2) Had a great time in Kerens, Texas, with this group of Greek scholars.
Poor Texas – suffering its worst heat wave in decades. But what better way to buy up the time than memorizing paradigms and vocabulary? Special thanks to Bill Mureiko and family for their kind invitation and hospitality. Now the real work begins.
3) Got to visit with Becky's mom and dad while I was in Dallas. On behalf of injera lovers worldwide, I am pleased to report that they treated me to Ethiopian food. They even sent me home with some for Becky and Nigusse. Brad and Betty Lapsley are like the Energizer Bunnies – they just keep on serving the Lord, despite their age.
4) Not that it matters, but this marks my 35th year of teaching Greek. I never get tired of it.
5) Wise words from Danny Akin at our seminary convocation on Tuesday. All chapel messages can be accessed here.
6) Nigu and I are enjoying staying in the dorm together. Watching him study Hebrew reminds me of my own seminary days. Tuesday night we had a special time of prayer for Europe, the Dark Continent.
7) Two more days to go until our first orientation for the November mission trip to Ethiopia. I'm reminded of Dorothy Sayers' words: "In the world it is called tolerance, but in hell it is called despair … the sin that believes in nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die."
8) One of my Greek students showed me this app for his iPad: Greek Vocabulary for David Alan Black. Even pronounces the Greek words for you. Wonders never cease.
9) Nice little serendipity: The Spanish translation of Learn to Read New Testament Greek is fast nearing completion. So grateful to Thomas and Lesly Hudgins for their labor of love.
10) So we had a 5.9 earthquake on Tuesday. I taught right through it. My poor students must have thought I was crazy, but compared to what I’ve experienced in California this was nothing.
11) Before I forget, do keep Becky in your prayers. Her second (of three) Avastin treatments is scheduled for Monday at UNC. Potential side effects can be life-threatening, so please lift her up.
12) I love this note. This is why we do what we do:
13) Have you noticed those brown leaves yet? They’re all over campus.
Before long many more will fall to the ground as a reminder of the seasonal changes about to take place. The Bible says in Isaiah 64 (The Message), "We're all sin-infected, sin-contaminated. Our best efforts are grease-stained rags. We dry up like autumn leaves—sin-dried, we're blown off by the wind." I have only this one life to live, and it will soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last.
14) I leave on my next international mission trip in exactly one month. Can't wait. "It is the whole business of the whole church to preach the whole gospel to the whole world" (Charles H. Spurgeon). Amen!
Friday, August 19
7:14 AM Heading out for RDU Airport. Sure hope I don't get on auto-pilot and drive to UNC Hospital instead. Grateful for all my blog readers. Please pray for me. Aloha oe!
7:10 AM Read Tithing and Croteau.
6:58 AM This morning I am sorrowing. I am sorrowing for my brothers and sisters living a life of conflict and confrontation because of the enemies of Christ. I am grieving for the hundreds of thousands of villages in the world that are without a Gospel witness. I grieve for the millions of Asians who work from dawn to dusk for a handful of rice while Americans go on diets to lose weight. The Lord is breaking my heart over the lostness, the brokenness of this world. I grieve over the thousands of unreached individuals, tribes, and people groups. I sorrow over my own callous indifference to the things of God. I grieve over the watered-down perversion of the Gospel that has pervaded our churches in America. I am grieved by those who think we're not called to suffer, that suffering is a thing of the past, that it is an archaic notion to suppose that Christians should accept inconvenience, suffering, and uncertainty. I grieve over my own shallow spirituality and self-serving, wimpy religion.
Today, this day, I must remind myself that I belong to a Body that is the living presence of a God whose heart is pounding with a passion for lost and dying souls. "Mercy's door is still ajar" -- yes, but for how much longer?
How can a church that does not live for the Gospel be the Bride of Christ?
Thursday, August 18
8:56 PM Well, my bags are packed and I'm ready and rearing to catch my 11:00 flight to Dallas tomorrow. Tonight we enjoyed a real special treat on the front porch -- fandisha (popcorn) from Alaba, Ethiopia -- a gift from Johannes "Katata" and his wife. Here I am crowning Johannes the "King of the Katatas," a new tribe in Ethiopia (which I had just invented).
In Amharic, "katata" means "straight ahead," a term we would often use when Johannes (or I) would inquire in which direction America or Shashamene or Addis Ababa was located while driving in Alaba. It got to the point where every other word he uttered was "katata" -- hence the moniker. Of course, all great potentates deserve nothing but the best gifts from their humble citizens.
We sure had some good times in Alaba. The following pix were all taken during our December/January trip 2006 trip. Forgive me for being so nostalgic but having Nigusse here is a great excuse to recall the blessings of those years gone by when we were so much younger (ha!).
Here's Tessema, a greatly esteemed church elder:
And here's Mercy:
Celebrating Ethiopian Christmas in January:
To the right is our other Alaba son, David, who now lives and serves Jesus in South Africa among the large ex-pat Ethiopian population there. We love you, David!
Getting ready to celebrate the New Year (American style, of course; the Ethiopian New Year begins on September 11):
Happy New Year!
7:16 PM This email just arrived:
Dr. Black, thought you'd like this one:
I responded as follows:
(Of course, I'm just kidding.)
1:16 PM Millions want to know: So how is Nigusse doing? He's as busy as a beaver and as happy as a bug in a rug. A few pix:
1) Here he is on the phone with Alaba. Glad he can keep in touch with his friends there. There are also many ministry matters he needs to handle from afar. (Note: You Duke and Carolina fans will just have to accept his t-shirt.)
2) Washer and dryer? No sweat for this master of all trades!
3) Yesterday Nigusse registered for his classes: Greek 1, Bible Exposition, and Christian Missions. He and Becky also attended all of the orientation meetings scheduled for new students, including this talk by our president, Danny Akin. Nigu is part of a record-setting enrollment of over 2,800 students.
4) Finally, here he is checking out his first books from the seminary library.
So, to answer your question. Nigusse is doing well, very well indeed. All thanks to God.
12:48 PM So proud of my writing colleagues at SEBTS. If you're an Old Testament prof, please consider requesting a desk copy of Mark Rooker's new book, The World and the Word: An Introduction to the Old Testament. For a shameless promotion of the book, which is co-written by Eugene Merrill and Michael Grisanti, go here.
12:15 PM After our Bible Study a few of us hung around to cash in our heavenly treasure. Here we are praying for Ethiopia, for our team that is going there in November, and for the Bethel Hill youth who are currently planning their very first international mission trip. (Now that is exciting.)
Plugging in where God has gifted us is where it's at. Moving people toward the cross of Christ -- is there any greater privilege? May we use all we have -- our skills, our time, our wealth, our hobbies even -- as redemptive tools. Our faith in our co-laborer, God, is what keeps us going.
12:02 PM Last night we continued our study of the book of Philippians. I am learning so much! Here are a few of my takeaways:
1) The greatest problem in the church is me (2:3). I allow things in my life that dull my spiritual sensitivity and produce carnality and division in the church. Paul calls this "selfish ambition and conceit." It is hard work to maintain an attitude void of offense toward God and others. It takes a good dose of humility. The middle letter of "sin" is "I," and it is this Big I that causes most of the trouble in our churches.
2) The ultimate solution to the greatest problem in the church is Christ (2:5). We must have the same mind that was also in Christ Jesus. The secret of the early church is simply that it was Christ-directed and Spirit-filled. We need to return to the absolute sovereignty of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our churches. Are we ready to trash our plans if He decrees otherwise? To know Christ, to have His mind, to experience the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering -- that alone will keep us from wallowing in sin and selfishness.
3) The way up is down (2:6-11). Contrary to popular notions, our Father is pleased when His children cease striving after status, recognition, and honors. Our supreme business as Christians is not success but submission. What matters is that we have the mind of Christ, which means, first and foremost, taking a towel and water and washing the disciples' feet. From status to service! From majesty to meniality! From standing tall to bending low! We must live as He lived who took the form of a servant. True followers of Jesus not only sing, they serve.
4) Obedience is required (2:12). It is not enough to make a good start in the Christian life. Demas started well but ended poorly. John Mark started poorly but ended well (2 Tim. 4:10-11). Let us remain faithful and grow in our obedience to Christ. It is not enough to hate worldly things. We must love what God loves, go where He sends us, and spend time on what matters most to Him.
5) Obedience is enabled (2:13). It is God who is producing in us both the desire and the ability to do what pleases Him. What would you do for Christ if you could? Or if you dared? God delights in using weak but yielded vessels. Together, verses 12 and 13 take care of a lot of questions about which the saints have differed. At the end of the day, our obedience to Christ is both required and enabled. It is both our responsibility and God's responsibility. All He asks is that we stay in tune with His Spirit. The power of God is not some exclusive enablement for pastors and missionaries. You and I can do all things through Christ. God is able to make all grace abound to us, no matter who we are. We are, every one of us, promised strength for the day.
6) Stop complaining (2:14)! Even when nothing works out according to our plans. Even when things don't make sense. Even when demons dance in glee. We can rejoice and praise God anyhow.
7) Am I "holding forth the word of life" (2:16)? Living as we do in a church culture of constant activity, it would be good policy to stop once in a while and find out why we are here. Our business as Christians is not to hoard our blessings but to share them with others. The early church had a deep sense of mission. They were not looking for comfort or honor or rewards. They were ready for dungeon, fire, and sword. They realized there was only one way of salvation, one life-giving word. God born as a baby in a feeding trough and dying between two thieves on a blood-spattered cross -- there is no other way to God! There are no simpler words to state the responsibility of the church than Paul's words: "holding forth the word of life."
8) Make room in your life for trouble (2:17). We cannot preach the cross and not share in it. Suffering is inherent in the very nature of the Christian experience. Jesus grappled with the ugly, the sordid, the hideous, and if we are to follow Him we too must grapple with a bruised and suffering society. Our proving ground is the world, not the church. Great soldiers are developed in battle, not on parade. Paul poured himself out for others, and so must we. It is a decadent generation that cannot endure sound doctrine and heaps to itself teachers who promise nothing but health and wealth. Our Lord, when He lived among us, worked tirelessly and died on a cross. He never meant to leave us smug and self-satisfied. A comfortable Christian is an oxymoron.
Wednesday, August 17
3:48 PM Tonight in Bible Study we'll be in the second chapter of Philippians. I might mention here that I've published 2 journal articles on this chapter, one dealing with the literary artistry of 2:1-4, the other treating the problem of the authorship of 2:5-11 (the famous "Christ hymn"). If you care for a copy of either or both, be glad to send them to you as .pdfs.
3:41 PM Just checked my class rolls for the fall. Guess who has signed up for my Greek 1 course? That's right, Nigusse. I hope he knows what he's doing. I hear that prof is a beast.
2:58 PM Time to break out the winter clothes. I see the highs in Dallas this weekend will only be around 104.
2:36 PM Good essay here on theological education: Seminaries adapt to changing religious landscape. It notes 5 trends in seminary training:
1) Multifaith understanding and Christian witness. While much of the curriculum should remain as it is, Aleshire says two areas related to religious realities in North America need attention—the growing number of people affiliated with religions other than Christianity and with no religious affiliation. "Ministers and priests will need more sensitivity to the nature of Christian ministry in an increasingly multifaith context," he said.
2) Alternatively credentialed clergy. While there always have been bivocational ministers, Aleshire says, "tent making" has become a growth industry in Protestant denominations. With attendance declining in many congregations, the trend seems likely to increase.
3) On-the-job education. Aleshire says seminaries need education that supports students who already are involved in ministry. "Many of our students have responded to the call to Christian ministry after being involved in other careers," said Harrison of Central Seminary's Murfreesboro center. "Others are bivocational ministers or volunteers in their churches."
4) Lay education. Professional degree training at seminaries equips students for religious leadership, while academic degree programs prepare them for advanced study. Neither meets the needs of laity seriously interested in learning about their faith but who do not want to work vocationally in ministry. A number of students at Central Seminary's Murfreesboro center are such "life-long learners."
5) Technology. Twenty years ago, theology schools barely were on the Internet. Today, thousands of students complete courses online. Aleshire said online resources for theological education are increasing, but they still are less abundant than they are for medical or legal education.
Harold Wilson was right: "He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery." If we're willing, we can get ahead of the change curve. Better take a deep breathe first, however. It may hurt.
2:20 PM I've been doing a lot of reading lately about missions -- what it is, and how best to define key terms such as ethne (nations or people groups?) in Matt. 28:19. You've probably already read several of the resources I've been reading, many of them online. Most of them offer clear logic, life-changing testimonies, and even colorful pictures. But as I read them I keep saying to myself, "Where are the Scriptures that support your point?" "What is the exegetical basis for your conclusions?" I am concerned, too, about what I see as the misapplication of the principles set forth in the New Testament about global evangelization. For example, take the missionary who has been sent abroad to target such and such a people group. However, because that people group lives in a nation that is closed to missionaries, he or she must live next door among a different people group. To my amazement, I have visited such missionaries only to be shocked by their lack of concern for their very own neighbors. Their focus seems almost exclusively to be on their designated people group.
Surely this is one-sided and off-balance. There will be some who will object that You can't reach everyone with the Gospel! Hmmm. In my view, there's no better way to kill the Gospel than to become exclusively focused on one people group and neglect the needs that are all around you. Can God use you to reach your neighbors for Christ? You bet your army boots! Walk across the street and visit for a moment. Rearrange your work schedule to include your neighbors and friends. Yes, your job is to reach your assigned people group. But you've got another job too, and that's to love those neighbors of yours, praying daily for boldness and open doors. If you are walking in step with the Spirit, He will show you the appropriate time and means of impacting them with the Good News. But, for the sake of the Gospel, we've got to stop putting missions in a box.
1:38 PM Was reminded at the workshop yesterday that missions is global. No need, therefore, to make a distinction between home and foreign missions. Missions is wherever you are. America is part of that, and so is Ethiopia. Let's think global.*
*The obvious question: Why do we need a separate NAMB and IMB?
1:26 PM Only two days to go before I leave for Dallas. In addition to teaching Greek, I'll be meeting with a potential Ph.D. student who lives in the area. If you are interested in SEBTS and would like to meet up, I have an hour or so early Sunday morning still available in my schedule. Just shoot me an email at email@example.com.
12:50 PM The University of Hawaii announces an opening in Religion. Nice perk: You get to teach in your swimming trunks and mariachi sandals. Guaranteed. You will need, however, to become fluent in the local lingo. Don't ask me for help: All I can remember today is "Aloha" and "Book 'em Danno."
12:30 PM I just received a copy of Professor Jan Lambrecht's "Foreword" to my forthcoming book Paul, Apostle of Weakness (Wipf & Stock). Am deeply honored and humbled that this outstanding New Testament exegete and expert in Pauline literature should have troubled himself to write it.
Lambrecht is professor emeritus of New Testament and Greek at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium. Look for the book to appear in early 2012, Lord willing.
10:56 AM Need some help with your Spanish? Check out this marvelous sermon by Thomas Hudgins on Mark 5:1-20. You'll be glad you listened to it.
10:49 AM Faculty Workshop Highlights (or Lowlights, depending on your point of view):
1) We were, as usual, fed to death. We are Baptists, you know. From left to right: George Robinson, David Beck, Jim Poworski, DB, David Lanier, Maurice Robinson, and Greg Heisler. Seriously, the food was great. Here's a shout out to our caterers: Shane's, Chick-fil-A, Moe's, and Catering Work.
2) I managed to bore my colleagues to death for about 20 minutes. Alvin Reid took a break from tweeting to snap this photo.
3) New faculty alert! His name is Tony Merida. We may not have the best looking faculty in the world, but we do have the most musically talented one. Just ask Tony.
4) My office is in this building. The entire campus is just like this -- old-fashioned and out-of-date. Just the way I like it.
5) Our first Bible-Area meeting of the semester. Our Associate Dean, David Beck, has just cracked a brilliant joke. Our OT faculty (left foreground) obviously have not gotten it yet.
6) Takeaways from the workshop were many. Here are just a few:
Honored and humbled to teach at SEBTS. I hope it's the best semester we've ever had as we keep our eyes solely on the Master Teacher.
Sunday, August 14
8:26 PM Sunday update:
1) Brother Woody "preached" (taught) today on the holiness of God. It was awesome. You could hear a pin drop in the building.
He asked, "Is the Word of God enough?" Then he added: "We live in America! We're queens and kings! We manipulate the Gospel in order to accommodate our desires that we have." He is absolutely correct in questioning how and why we "do" church in the U.S. "How much of our Gospel is American, and how much of it is biblical?" Good questions, Woody!
2) Then it was off to participate in a Southern tradition: eating at Bo Jangles after church.
3) This event usually draws a good number from our congregation as we can't seem to get enough of each other from 9:30 to 12:00 each Sunday morning.
4) Afterwards we drove to the farm of some new friends Marshall Humphries introduced us to, the Ed and Faye Little family.
5) We were treated to some of Faye's excellent lemon meringue pie. Do you remember when you tasted your first bite of this Southern favorite? Scrumptious. Thank you, Faye.
6) Ed is a registered forester but is still an active farmer. Can you guess what his main crop is?
7) As if Ed is not busy enough, he also collects antique cars, including this beauty -- a '57 Chevy. When I was attending Kailua High School, I tell you, this was the car to drive.
8) Finally, what would Sunday be like without a trip to Wal-Mart? Here Nigu proudly shows off his new calendar, replete with pix of his many Ethiopian friends and loved ones.
Tomorrow I'm off to our Faculty Workshop. Looking forward to gaining much from the speakers and from my colleagues. This old dog is eager to learn new tricks!
7:12 AM As you know, next weekend I will be starting up a Greek class in Dallas, Texas. Then next month I'll do the same thing in a foreign country. Both classes will continue using my Greek DVDs. Seems interest in studying Greek is flourishing. I'm glad for that, and I'm glad to teach these classes, but I do have a word of caution. Two things ought never be entered into prematurely: embalming and a Greek class. (Ha-ha.) So let's make a deal. I will do my very best to fulfill my side of the bargain. And that's to teach the language in a way that is easy, simple, understandable, and motivating. I promise to be as clear, accurate, and precise as possible. I expect you to be as careful with your part of the bargain. What's that? you ask. Blood, sweat, and tears. Tons of memorization. Hours of study. Let's both do our part, okay? Nothing we strive to do should begin in a context of vagueness and uncertainty. If I have time, I'll .... No, no, no! Purgatory has a special room for procrastinators. I'm being facetious, of course. But we are to keep our word. If we say we are going to do something, we need to do it. It's called commitment. In our irresponsible society, I realize that commitment is a dirty word. I also realize that many of you are already over-committed. Then I might suggest that you delay your embalmment -- and your Greek class -- until the right time.
One last thing: You can't do this on your own. It takes what I call divine discipline. I'll be talking about this at our faculty workshop tomorrow. I'll be sharing some principles that enhance commitment and excellence in what we do as teachers and role models. And I'll be brutally honest about my own failures in this area (I lasted only three weeks in my first semester of Greek before dropping the class). We've all failed in one way or another in this area of life. I'm simply suggesting that before you begin a new project you count the cost. It will require a great deal of divine discipline. As with a marriage, you must choose to adapt, adjust, and work through the obstacles that will inevitably come your way. My fall beginning Greek class will be held on Tuesdays. That means that every Tuesday I'll have 60 eager beavers raring to pounce on their studies of Koine Greek. If I lose a single one of them along the way, I will feel personally responsible, at least to some degree. That doesn't mean that you're a failure if you drop out. Mature teachers are pushers and prodders, but they are also tolerant, kind, and gracious. There will be another time and place to begin again. I've already pointed out on this blog how William Gladstone, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, took up a new language when he was 70. That really convicted me when I first read it. I myself am thinking about jump-starting my Spanish this school year. It will come in very handy as more and more Hispanics move into our area.
In the end, you do whatever you know is God's will for you. As Jim Elliott put it so eloquently, "Wherever you are, be all there, and live to the hilt whatever you are convinced is the will of God for your life." And if Greek is part of that purpose for you, you can rely on Him for the grace to get you through.
Saturday, August 13
8:58 PM The funeral of a Christian is a wonderful thing. This was certainly true of sister Joy's funeral today at the seminary chapel. Our sister has finished her race, a race that was but a prelude to an endless story that will unfold throughout all eternity. Life on earth is not even a chapter; it is only the introduction.
Today our Lord honored the memory of Joy Solc, whom He saved and has now taken unto Himself. 33 wonderful years of marriage (to the same man), 3 children all serving King Jesus along with their spouses. Joy is now complete in Him. We who remain have been touched by her life. Retrospect gives way to prospect. Even as heads of state makes speeches and politicians draft documents, we know that only the return of our Lord will set things right. He alone is the Blessed Hope.
During his funeral sermon, Danny Akin read the following poem. The words must have impacted Josef as much as they did me. All the sorrows that beset us now will be utterly removed in the world to come. But in the here and now, in the midst of our sorrowing, we can claim as much of His power and help as is necessary for our good and His glory. Please join me in praying for Josef. There now sits a vacant chair in his home. He will overcome his grief, not by smilingly denying its existence or by whistling in the dark, but by looking unto Jesus, our crucified and risen Savior, our Great High Priest, our Good Shepherd, our only Hope, our Help in time of need. There is much cause for celebration today. Christ is what really mattered to Joy, and everything else is to be judged in light of Him.
My Father’s way may twist and turn,
My heart may throb and ache,
But in my soul I’m glad I know,
He maketh no mistake.
My cherished plan may go astray,
My hopes may fade away,
But still I’ll trust in my Lord to lead,
For He doth know the way.
Tho’ night be dark and it may seem,
That day will never break,
I’ll pin my faith, my all in Him,
He maketh no mistake.
There’s so much now I cannot see,
My eyesight far too dim,
But come what may, I’ll simply trust
And leave it all to Him.
For by and by the mist will lift,
And plain it all He’ll make.
Through all the way, tho’ dark to me,
He made not one mistake.
Friday, August 12
6:27 PM Care to check the mail box with me this evening?
Don't you just love that mama licking her new calf?
5:53 PM One of my favorite bloggers just cited another one of my favorite bloggers. In fact, two of them. Read Just make sure to send in your tithe.
Ya gotta love the Internet!
5:48 PM Today we received news that Nigusse has officially been accepted into the Advanced M.Div. program at the seminary. This is a great blessing for him and us. All glory, laud, and honor to Him who sits on the throne!
5:16 PM Our Wednesday night Bible Study is off to a great start. We were in Philippians chapter 1 and were asked to consider some of the lasting lessons we found within its verses. Here are a few I jotted down:
1) Nothing ought to make us more thankful than when believers in Christ help each other in the work of the Gospel (1:5).
2) Not only the help we give, but the desire, the willingness, the propensity to give, is the work of God in and among us (1:6).
3) The basis of Christian community is love -- not our love but the "deep compassion that comes from Jesus Christ Himself" (1:8).
4) Our love for each other should "abound yet more and more" (1:9). I suspect that God has a very low estimation of those who feel no need to grow in love. Each of our relationships -- as spouses, as parents, as children, as brothers and sisters in Christ -- demands constant care and growth.
5) We are deceived if we think that we can live for anything but the Gospel and still be joyful (1:27). When Paul says, "The only thing that matters," he means it. Is the Gospel the one passion of our lives?
6) Be not afraid (1:28)! The Lord's people have no business wandering in the alleys of fear and intimidation. Let us register no excitement over the passing trials that stir this poor jittery world into a frenzy. The times may be perilous but they are in His hands.
7) The Christian life is a battle (1:30). If you haven't learned this lesson yet, cheer up: you soon will. Truly, to live for Christ (1:21) will cost us dearly. Individually we run into our share of storms, and collectively the true church is battered on every side. Tribulation is a reality but we can rejoice because He has overcome the world and all it can throw at us.
8) Are you willing to work with others? Paul says we must "struggle together," having "one common purpose" (1:27). The tragedy of our times is that we are not willing to cooperate with other believers because they are not like us. We spend millions promoting "our" denominations and programs and care little for helping others to accomplish the same goals. There will be no global evangelization until we repent of our self-centeredness.
9) I need not suspect the motives of others. If they are preaching the true Gospel, even in ways I think are unacceptable, I can still rejoice (1:15-18). A man once said to a famous evangelist, "I don't like your method of evangelism." The evangelist asked him, "Well, what's your method?" The man answered, "I don't have one." "I like mine better" was the evangelist's wise reply. How the old nature wants to take off after every distraction that crosses our path! Paul says, "The Gospel is being preached, and in this I rejoice." Who are we to say that people will not come to Christ when they see a truck like this one?
10) Please let's honor and esteem our leaders but never exalt them above others in the church. Overseers and deacons are extensions of the Body, not over it (1:1). One of the great tragedies in the story of Christianity has been the shift in understanding that has taken place concerning our view of church leadership. "Overseers and deacons" are not proud titles but descriptions or activities: "those who oversee and serve [the congregation in some special capacity]." Our Lord anticipated our trouble when He set the record straight (Mark 10:44-45): "If one of you wants to be first, he must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served; He came to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many."
11) Righteousness comes only through Christ (1:9). Only He can make us right with God and with others. Churches and homes are rent with strife and sin because members do not get right with God through confession and by claiming the cleansing blood of Christ (1 John 1:9).
12) What are the "chains" in your life? God can use them for His glory and for the expansion of His kingdom. He did that with Paul's chains (1:12). God often grants His servants their greatest success in their weakest moments. The early church was powerless yet it met everything as it arose and evil gave way before it. The problem of a broken home, for example, can be transformed into a mighty visitation of God. The best rule for Christian and church is this: "My grace is all you need, because my power is greatest when you are weak" (2 Cor. 12:9).
There you have it -- a few "lasting lessons" from Philippians 1. Can you think of any others?
1:12 PM A huge wild fire is currently burning near Suffolk and sending a huge plume of smoke our way. When I first smelled it this morning I rushed to the car to search the neighboring farms. Perhaps someone was burning trash? But no, the local sheriff told me the fire is far to the east of us though its effects are far-reaching indeed.
The fire was sparked by lightening -- a not uncommon occurrence in these parts. 6,000 acres have been burned so far. (One acre is about the size of a football field.) I am concerned and prayerful about those fighting the fire, having served as a volunteer fire fighter for 4 years when we moved to North Carolina. In the meantime we're keeping our doors and windows shut tight.
Thursday, August 11
7:20 PM This was truly a historic evening at Bradford Hall.
The official farm photographer captured every unforgettable moment.
Next time: Nigusse eating with chopsticks.
2:25 PM In her latest essay over at the Bethel Hill site, Becky addresses the issue of tithing and giving according to 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. Do check it out. Incidentally, I've invited Becky, who was an award-winning financial planner in California, to address my NT 2 class this fall when we are discussing New Testament principles of giving and financial management. I'm eager for my students to glean from her wisdom and experience.
1:43 PM Glad to see Richard Erickson's New Testament exegesis primer getting some well-deserved attention. Brian's assessment is spot on.
1:38 PM Please pray for Nigusse. Tonight his Papa B is preparing Chinese food for supper. I have invited him to risk his digestion on my home cooking.
1:22 PM Odds and ends ...
1) I awoke this morning to an Agatha Christie palette of colors: apricot, rose, mauve, and blue. I pulled out my camera and captured this scene:
2) Later, I snapped this photo while walking along one of our many farm trails. A lightening strike almost split this tree in two. Awesome.
3) Thanks to our good friends Leigh and Thomas, the weary have places to rest throughout the farm. Here's one of them.
4) Finally, please join me in welcoming Scott Sholar to the wonderful world of theo-blogging. His site is Jesus-focused all the way. I loved this comment:
Amen to that! May God bless and use your efforts, brother Scott, to encourage and challenge the Body worldwide.
1:12 PM Ethiopia update #2: I forgot to link to an important essay that tells you the back-story of brother Melesse and his family. It's called A Home for Melesse.
7:08 AM Ethiopia update:
1) We received the following letter from an Alaba evangelist. His name is Melesse Assefa. It is a marvelous testimony to the grace of God.
Here's a photo of brother Melesse's new home in Alaba.
No longer will he and his family be forced to move from rented house to rented house because of the opposition of his landlords. This home was made possible by people in America who love Jesus. Amen.
2) At Bible Study last night we discussed the phrase "your participation in the Gospel" (Phil. 1:5), and Becky noted that this fellowship in the Gospel has no geographical boundaries. She is absolutely right. The church in Ethiopia and the church in the United States are one. There is only one Christian nation, and it is comprised of the born-again, blood-bought people redeemed by Christ. Even as the church in America welcomes Nigusse, the church in Alaba commissioned him for his studies abroad. During Nigusse's final church service in Alaba the elders laid their hands upon him and committed their choice servant to the Lord.
Like Daniel in the Old Testament, Nigusse is a dreamer. He turned down a king's table and dared to be different. His road in Alaba has not been easy; it has led him through a lion's den, but Nigusse knows how to read the writing on the wall, can decipher the language of heaven. We pray that his stay among us here in the U.S. will only strengthen that ability to understand and live out the Word of God.
3) It takes no talent to spot the true church. It is always at prayer. Here the elders of the Alaba church call upon the Living Water who alone can sustain and satisfy Nigusse during his long sojourn in America.
4) Nigusse showed us photo after photo of "last suppers" he was invited to attend by his many friends and loved ones in Alaba and elsewhere. Of course, the national delicacy, Doro Wat (chicken stew), was served at every meal. The poor chickens of Ethiopia; they must cower in fear whenever they hear the name "Nigusse."
5) The church is not a building. But in Alaba having a simple meeting place advances the Gospel in ways unknown here in the States. Here's the latest photo we have of the Zobechame building, taken by Nigusse just a few days before his departure.
Like Jesus, the Rock of Offense, these stones are rocks of offense to the unbelievers of Alaba. Either they will hide in the Rock of Ages or face the Day when men and women will cry out for the rocks and mountains to hide them. Please continue to pray for this project. Not for the stones. But for the wind of the Spirit to rest upon this congregation. We must have the "unction" to be effective for Christ.
6) Finally, you may not have known that our very own Nigusse has been the Bible School director in Alaba for many years. Here he presides over his final graduation service before starting his studies at SEBTS.
The church of Christ develops the baby into maturity through study and service. I have been privileged to teach many times in this school. I am a firm believer in returning biblical education to the local church, which is exactly what this school is trying to do. Praise God!
Wednesday, August 10
4:32 PM Really looking forward to Bible Study tonight at The Hill. Joel is leading us in a 4-part study of Philippians, one of my all-time favorite New Testament books. With tonight's introductory lesson in mind, I've written a short piece called The Real Message of Philippians. Hope to see a gang of people at Bible Study this evening!
4:27 PM My Greek class has been postponed due to illness in Dallas so I will not be coming to Texas this weekend as previously scheduled. Actually, this is providential as it allows me a chance to attend the funeral of Joy Solc at SEBTS on Saturday. I've often thought, Why should the Solc family have to suffer so much? I've given up trying to find an answer. There is no use trying to understand in this life what will be made plain only in eternity. God allows a good many things that will only be understood later. Terrible things happen to even the godliest of Christians. It is a lie that we can expect our lives to turn out in storybook fashion with happy endings. Paul himself was often perplexed. But he was never in despair. Josef, I know you are asking the WHY? question. Believe me, I am too. Life, it seems, is sometimes like a giant riddle. You feel bruised. You no longer accept easy optimism. You begin to look instead at the darker currents of life.
And then you suddenly remember: Our "whys" will one day disappear when we see Him. I have a feeling that we will not be in heaven 5 minutes until we forget to ask God questions. In the meantime, there is only one way to handle our heartaches, our grief, and that is by yielding our unsurrendered selves and consenting daily to our death with Christ. Many things in life do not make sense and cannot be understood down here. No matter. Those who look today to be reunited with their departed loved ones are the people who need most of all to combine eager anticipation for the resurrection with faithful service until He comes.
11:05 AM Ethiopia update:
1) Nigusse spoke with Tilahun this morning, who reports that baby Nathan is recovering nicely from his bout with Hepatitis. Answer to much prayer. Praise God.
2) Today we received an email from Alayu who tells us that Kidist was finally able to see her new baby boy. Amen! Keep praying for mother and child.
3) Please pray for brother Lorenzo (Lori), a church elder in Alaba, who had surgery for colon cancer and a colostomy. In the picture, Lori is squatting next to me. Lori, you are in our prayers.
We should not be alarmed at evil tidings. Our hearts can always be fixed on God. The one thing we cannot do is make a Santa Claus out of our God. We cannot use His Son only for our own satisfactions. "Once earthly joy I craved / Sought peace and rest; / Now Thee alone I seek, / Give what is best." Even as we crave joy, peace, and health, the real question is: Do we seek Him alone?
P.S. Lori has an urgent need for colostomy supplies. If you have any, please send them to us and we will see that he gets them. Amasagenalo.
Tuesday, August 9
8:13 PM Students, get it on your calendar now. Our semi-annual Student Day at the farm will be held from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm on Saturday, October 22. Fun, food, fellowship and lots more. Brings your friends and family.
3:12 PM Thousands want to know: Just what was your project du jour? Our goal today was to lower a drain pipe running from one field, under a farm road, and into another, slightly lower field. When we originally installed the pipe we failed to sink it low enough to ensure proper drainage. Thus we wanted to lower the pipe about 4 inches while maintaining the correct angle. About 20 minutes ago, one tired 9 year-old, one very tired 36 year-old, and one exhausted 59 year-old returned to Bradford Hall dripping with sweat. All we can say is, Thank God for His help. And one more thing:
11:37 AM We've been busy digging up an old drain pipe. I should say, Nigu has been busy. He's about the only one around here who can still swing a pick ax at full force. Oh, to be 36 again....
We've taken a break for lunch, and what a lunch it will be. Becky's cooking up her world class burritos.
8:06 AM Those of you who attended last night's dinner meeting might enjoy this: Confessions of a Missional Greek Prof.
7:51 AM We had a great time last night. SEBTS alumni came from as far away as New England and Miami Beach.
My thanks to Albie Brice who directs our alumni association for inviting me to speak.
The venue was our marvelous guest quarters on campus, the Manor House. Here are its host and hostess: Denis and Connie Friskney.
Prospective students are lavishly feted here. If you care to visit the campus, please contact the Student Development office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Becky's Avastin treatment went very well yesterday. The potential side effects are numerous, so I will be watching her closely today. Yesterday I also had a chance to pray with my precious brother and colleague Josef Solc whose bride of 33 years will be buried this weekend. Josef, you are in my constant thoughts and prayers.
Monday, August 8
9:58 AM Just spoke with Alayu in Addis. He reports that their baby boy weighs about 2 kilos (about 4.4 pounds) and seems to be getting stronger. Praise God! They still have not been able to see him. Kidist is still hospitalized as well. Prior to her emergency C-section she lost 4 liters of blood almost at once, so her condition was obviously critical. We will continue to pray for the family and send you updates when we can. Right now it's time to head out to "our" hospital :)
8:42 AM Odds and ends ...
1) It will be a very busy day today. Becky begins her Avastin treatment at 12:00 noon, then tonight I'm speaking at the SEBTS alumni officers' banquet at 6:00 pm. Their theme this year is an appropriate one for our school: "Participation in the Gospel." You guessed it -- I'll be showing slides and emphasizing the goal of our work in Ethiopia, which is to partner local churches in the U.S. with local churches in Ethiopia while by-passing bloated bureaucracies.
2) Hoping to speak with Alayu by phone today to get an update on his wife Kidist and their preemie. Stay tuned for more information as soon as we get it.
3) It was wonderful to speak with sister Martha in Ethiopia yesterday. Martha and her husband Demissie are our meal-time hosts whenever we go to Alaba. They are one of the most precious Christian couples you will ever meet. Please pray for Martha: she is recovering from her latest bout with malaria.
It was Martha who, along with her large family, would prepare our "last supper" on our final night in Alaba, a bittersweet occasion when there was much speechifying and many tears of joy and sorrow in having to leave a place we love so dearly.
Martha, we love you and are praying for you.
4) In Sunday School yesterday we were discussing the topic of judging others when I noticed this verse in John 7:24: "Do not judge," says Jesus, "by external standards, but judge with righteous judgment." When I pointed out the context of that saying -- the Jewish leaders were judging Jesus wrongly, saying, "How does this man know so much when he's never been to SEMINARY?" -- we all got a big laugh. Of course, the text says "school" and not "seminary," but the point remains. How easy it is for us to think that just because a man has been to seminary or has a degree behind his name, he is worthy of our trust. There are educated fools out there aplenty. Conversely, there are not a few Bible scholars who a possess a deep knowledge of the things of God who have never had any formal biblical education whatsoever. Jesus was one of them!
5) Finally, a huge Monday morning shout out to brother Joel who bought us a great word of encouragement and exhortation yesterday when he taught from 1 John 4:1-6 about false teachers and false teaching. Quoting Martin Lloyd Jones he said, "False teaching is not necessarily a direct denial of Christ. It is anything that either adds to Christ or detracts from Him." Now that is a very profound insight. Joel then added, "The Spirit of God came to glorify one Person, the Person of Jesus Christ. He is the one to be exalted! He is the one to be praised!"
As Joel said this my mind immediately raced to a subject I've often raised on this blog. I know several "senior" pastors. I love you dearly. I'm not saying you are trying to play God. My question is simply this: Why would you want to do anything that would even hint at the fact that you might be trying to usurp the role and function of Jesus Christ as the only Head of the church, as the church's only Senior Pastor (1 Pet. 5:4)? Why would you want to do this? Especially in light of the clear teaching of Scripture? In New Testament times, church leadership was completely non-hierarchical. And for good reason. Nothing was to detract from the preeminence of Christ. This is the obvious point of Col. 1:18, where Paul writes that "in all things He might have the first place." The emphasis is clear. All man-made titles of status are really borrowings from the modus operandi of a sinful and ungodly world, and by using them we are bound to elevate and exalt someone other than the only Person who is worthy of our reverence. Jesus alone is "Reverend." There is therefore great incentive to worship and love and honor God is a way that exalts Him above every other human being, His choicest servants included.
Friends, our main business in life is to glorify God. We are gravely mistaken if we think that glorifying God means that He will put us at the top of the ladder of earthly success and recognition. He may well drop us to the bottom of the rung. True discipleship, as Joel emphasized yesterday, is always costly. It cost John the Baptist his head and Jonathan Edwards his pulpit. Aspiring to become the "first among equals" may indicate a growing disease of the spirit that could become a malignant cancer. It is dangerously possible, by our titles, to usurp the sole supremacy of Christ. Such an altitude may well be a serious symptom.
Sunday, August 7
7:54 AM Our family time last night included lots of good food, sharing, and praying. Many of the folk you see here are Ethiopian veterans ...
... including Miss Mary, who has gone with us twice to Burji.
Becky's gumbo was a big hit, as were the fried injera chips (Sheree, you really should market those things).
I love this picture. Our guest of honor is serving at the drink table. Isn't that just like Nigusse?
Becky commented to me last night after everyone had left, "I loved hearing the children." They were indeed a delight to have around.
Enjoying genuine Ethiopia buna (coffee).
The Glass's newest addition, Christian, is Mr. Cuddleable.
Nigusse shared with us how God miraculously intervened time and again to preserve life in the midst of intense persecution in Alaba.
Finally, it was time to pray. Much to be thankful for, many to intercede for.
Our prayers go out to Oshe and Asagarech, Tilahun and Aberesh, Alayu and Kidist, and especially their precious children who are struggling at this time. We love you!
Saturday, August 6
3:26 PM We just received a special request from Addis Ababa. The man who directs the Addis Kidan Guest House (where our teams stay) is named Alayu. His wife Kidist was expecting their first child on September 20. Yesterday she began to bleed and the baby had to be taken by C-section. Kidist remains in the hospital and her child is in an incubator. Please let's all hold them up in prayer. They are a very, very, very special couple and special servants of the Lord.
2:56 PM In case you didn't know, Becky often summarizes the teaching at Bethel Hill on the church's website. Her latest sermon summary is a doozy. It's called So you call yourself a Christian?? Show me! She concludes as follows:
I like that. Giving should be as natural for us breathing. Shame on so many of our churches for using our resources on ourselves. That's not giving. That's pooling. As long as we are content to "tithe to ourselves," the many needs of our less fortunate brothers and sisters will go unmet. May God grant us a spirit of giving, and may it begin with the Dave Black family.
11:51 AM Just snitched some of the gumbo. (Shhh. Don't tell anyone.) Spicy and delicious.
10:36 AM Been a busy day so far. I had to go to the post office, the bank, and Ace Hardware. Nigu went with me. And get this -- the mail carrier for our neck of the woods gave him a tour of the postal facility. Nice serendipity that. Today we've been sweeping and vacuuming and mopping floors and setting up tables and chairs and cooking and baking -- Becky finished a pound cake and just started a big pot of Nawlin's gumbo for tonight's celebration dinner. A slow drizzle has cooled the temperature down a bit. Thankful for every drop.
7:51 AM Eric Carpenter, in his latest blog post called The Nature of the Epistles Points to Unity, reminds us that the New Testament letters emphasize the unity of the body in more ways than one. Another striking feature: The absence in the opening salutations of any reference to the "pastor" of the church. In our churches the clergy often reserve for themselves the influential positions of pulpit and leadership. Paul's letters, on the other hand, point to the concept of total participation, of body function, of multiple leadership. It is partly this koinonaic dimension of the church that led Eric to leave the institutional church. Others, myself included, seek to advance renewal within the traditional church. Either way, we must never reduce the church to a mere organization.
Writes Emil Brunner in his The Misunderstanding of the Church, "During the whole course of its history, by reason of the fact that it was essentially a collective rather than a fellowship, the church has not only neglected to create a true brotherhood, but in many ways has positively hindered such a development."
May that never be said of any church, mine included.
7:15 AM So, what does "Nigusse" mean? In Amharic, "Niguss" means king, while the "e" suffix means my. Hence Nigusse means My king. We also have a dog named Sheba. She is, of course, a Queen.
So there you have it: All the royalty one could ever hope for residing right here at Bradford Hall.
Friday, August 5
7:58 PM Nigusse had a great time on campus. Met oodles of people, including a Kenyan and another Ethiopian. He is eager to begin his studies.
2:38 PM Kevin Brown continues his excellent series on how his life has changed in the past few years. His latest entry is called Changed Perspectives. This is blogging at its very best. His entry reminds me of something Jerry Bridges wrote in his classic book Transforming Grace (p. 144):
One day I think I will edit a book called "How My Mind Has Changed." I'd definitely ask brother Kevin to be a contributor!
2:01 PM Dogs are bathed. Just saved us $30.00.
12:34 PM When too much lettuce can be a bad thing.
12:06 PM I know of several students who are beginning their seminary studies this fall. Believe me, your first semester is likely to be your most challenging. So, for what they are worth, here are seven tips for those just starting seminary:
1) Be prepared to work and to work hard. Seminary is usually harder than college. Much harder. The expectations are high, and the requirements heavy. So be prepared to learn self-discipline and good study habits as well as theology and missions.
2) Consider a reduced class load for your first semester. That is, instead of taking 15 hours, take 12 (or even 9). Allow yourself some time to get over the initial hump of adjusting to graduate studies. Four classes will keep you plenty busy.
3) Buy a day planner and use it. Don't ever wing it, schedule-wise. Be sure to write out your weekly assignments for each course you are taking, and then review your schedule frequently to make sure nothing is slipping through the cracks. Know your due dates, and keep them.
4) Get to know your professors outside of the classroom. This is essential! Profs are usually eager to put names with faces but they often have too many students to do this well. For myself, my office door is always open, and I would love to meet you in person, whether or not you are a first semester student. So take some time to become acquainted with your teachers. And then be sure to go to them during the semester with your questions.
5) Take the languages first. Yes, I recognize that Greek and Hebrew are not usually prerequisites for theology courses or even for NT and OT Introduction. But if your professor is anything like me, you will be hearing lots of Greek and Hebrew in even the most basic general ed classes, and the more of the discussion you can follow, the better.
6) Use the library. Get to know its ins and outs. Take a guided tour and then make use of its ample resources. Librarians are some of the most helpful people on any campus. They are eager and able to help you with your research. Use them.
7) Finally, take a mission trip at least once during the semester. I do, and it is a constant reminder to me that inflow requires outflow. After all, you are learning to serve other people, and the best learning is by doing. Your "mission trip" might be a visit to the local soup kitchen, or it may be to some faraway country. The "where" doesn't really matter. As my friend Alvin Reid puts it, "Life is a mission trip; take it!"
10:40 AM We're having 35 people over tomorrow night to help us welcome Nigusse to America. Guess it's time to bathe the dogs.
10:02 AM This week I encouraged one of our students at SEBTS to consider doing his doctorate in Germany. In case you didn't know it, my assistant Andy Bowden (who is headed for Munich) has done a lot of the leg work for you already. If you are praying about getting your Ph.D. in a German university, this page is for you: Preparing for studies abroad. And a hearty Vielen Dank! to Andy for this labor of love.
9:55 AM One thing you gotta say about my colleague Alvin Reid: The man has gumption. Need proof?
9:32 AM One week from today I leave for Dallas to begin a Greek class. Can't wait to get started. The class will continue using my DVDs. Technology is amazing.
9:28 AM Here's an excerpt from an email Becky sent out today:
Yes indeed: Praise God!
9:24 AM Big day today. Nigusse gets a tour of the seminary library and then meets with his admissions counselor to map out his program for the next 3 years.
9:16 AM At the retreat last weekend at Lake Gaston I was asked how a tentmaking pastor could find time to do his ministry well. The answer, I suggested, is to adopt a sacrificial lifestyle. We must learn how to find our leisure in our labor, as Jesus invited us to do (Matt. 11:28). Like Paul, we have to be willing to surrender career achievement and private leisure to gain the prize (Phil. 3:14). Besides, it is unbiblical to speak of "the" pastor of a church. Jesus never entrusted the leadership of a church to one single individual.
7:52 AM My colleague Josef Solc lost his wife to cancer yesterday. She is now in the presence of King Jesus. Praying that the God of all comfort would be with Josef and his children during this difficult time of loss.
7:37 AM One of my students, Blake Everett, just went on his first international mission trip. His outstanding post-trip report is called I need Africa more than Africa needs me. Here's just one takeaway:
7:24 AM Awesome video: What if Church Looked More Like This?
Thursday, August 4
8:59 PM Before:
Meanwhile, I taught Nigusse how to mow. He is now the Lawn Mower King.
Plus he learned how to unload the dish washer AND wash and dry his clothes. All in one day. Amaaaazing!
P.S. I doth hurt. I upset some hornets as I was roto-tilling. I got the best of them but not before being stung some 8 or 9 times. Thankful for Benadryl.
11:52 AM Now hear this! We've just added to our home page a new link called Dave Black's Greek Portal. It's your one-stop station for all things Greek. If you like what you see, the credit must go to my newest assistant Kyle Davis, who did the grunt work on the project. And, if you don't see a link you think should be included, let me know.
11:20 AM Went outside to deep weed and roto-till one of Bec's old garden beds in preparation for replanting.
This is how far I got.
The weatherman tells me that the current heat index in Nelson, Virginia is 110. I think I'll stay inside for a while.
9:50 AM Things just got less boring online. Read Shoddy Scholarship or Dishonest Scholarship?
9:17 AM Let's continue to pray for Oshe and his wife in Burji. The tragic killing of their daughter must be an almost unbearable burden. Jesus taught us to pray, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." Augustine called this the "terrible petition" because it states with utmost clarity that what we so desperately need for ourselves is conditioned upon extending it to others. Do we pray for those who have hurt us? For those who have rejected us? For those who are the hardest to love?
We can, and we must.
8:28 AM Want to join brother Eric in reviewing your Greek by translating through the book of Philippians? If so, I'd be glad to send you a gratis .pdf of my essay "The Discourse Structure of Philippians: A Study in Textlinguistics." We discuss the theme and purpose of the letter as well as the way its argument unfolds. Just shoot me an email at email@example.com.
8:22 AM Big day today: Nigu hat pancakes for the first time and learned how to empty the dishwasher. Later he and Becky will run to Wal-Mart. How American can that be?
7:23 AM I must say, I'm finding the internet boring today. Same old same old. Yet there's a good discussion of seminary education here: Stop Blaming the Seminaries. How true -- the lessons of ministry cannot be learned in the classroom but must be forged in the crucible of training. If, as Whitehead once observed, the typical graduate student is "overladen with inert ideas" and ill prepared for real life ministry, no one can blame the writers of the New Testament for this sorry state of affairs. Here's hoping you will graduate from seminary with some very radical ideas -- "radical" in the sense of going back to the roots of the faith. For starters, may we reject the notion of the omni-competent pastor and return to an Ephesians 4 model of equipping ministry. Marjorie Warkentin writes that "the vocabulary of New Testament leadership permits no pyramidal forms, it is the language of horizontal relationships.... Ordination can have no function in such a system, for it sets up barriers where none should exist, that is, between one Christian and another and hinders the mutual service by which the church is edified" (Ordination: A Biblical-Historical View, p. 187). If we ordain ministers who are fully supported by the church, then we should also ordain ministers who are not -- and that should include all of us.
6:38 AM Awesome sunrise this morning.
Then I watched the donks begin to graze near the pond.
These words were open on my lap: "The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. He lets me rest in fields of green grass and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water. He gives me new strength."
Thank God for a new day and renewed strength.
5:56 AM Students, I made a few changes to our course syllabi for this fall:
1) In Greek 3, a full fourth of your grade will be determined by your ability to recite Greek in class. That is, you will be asked to read Greek aloud, and read it well, and then you will be expected to translate the assigned exercises with skill and facility. Poor recitation will result in a sizable goose egg in my grade book.
2) In NT 2, I've designed (and posted to Moodle) an easy-to-use checklist so that you can track your additional assignments. There are 50 of these assignments, and each one will be worth 2 points, for a total of 100. Do all 50 of the assignments and you will receive a perfect score for this portion of the course.
In none of these classes will attendance be required or be a part of your final grade. We must never forget that mediating the presence of Christ is one of the main tasks of the Holy Spirit, who enables us to perform under the New Covenant. My hope and desire is that the Spirit will stand over our shoulders as it were and throw light upon Jesus, who stands facing us. For if we see the true glory of Jesus we will be more likely to follow Him in obedience and love.
5:48 AM Becky writes that Nigusse is a special privilege and responsibility.
5:41 AM Up early praying for baby Nathan who, of course, is no longer a baby. "Jesus, my strength and hope, on thee I cast my care, with humble confidence look up, and know that thou hear'st my prayer" (Charles Wesley).
Wednesday, August 3
7:45 PM Evenin' blogging peeps. Yep, it's been a while. On Saturday, when I was at the lake, a gigantic lightening storm near the farm zapped the power, and Becky and Nigusse were without electricity for several hours. The same storm also blew out our modem, so we have been without internet access until today. Let's see ... unreliable electricity, and intermittent internet connectivity. Made Nigusse feel right at home.
Speaking of the lake, here's a shot of the entire group.
The age-spread was wide: from 12 year olds to a Ph.D. student at UNC. We had a blast. Even Saturday night, when the AC went out and I taught in 100 degree temperatures. Our hosts were Albert and Vivian Yeh, whose idea of a retreat center are very similar to ours.
For more information on what they do, here's their website: Christian Leadership Renewal Center.
On Monday we began to introduce Nigusse to our life both on the farm and elsewhere. That includes, of course, UNC Hospital. Here we are with Becky's lead nurse and cancer doctor after our meeting on Monday.
After prayer and much discussion we have decided to try a new treatment with Avastin. Becky's gynecological oncologist says it has been shown to extend life about two months. Becky will have treatments at UNC every three weeks, beginning next Monday. And there is some really great news: Becky will not lose her hair! Nigusse, of course, got a detailed tour of the hospital complex: "Here's where Jessie had Nolan, and here's the building Dave was in for his malaria, and here's where I had my cancer surgery," etc.
Meanwhile, back at the homestead, Leigh and Thomas Humphries stopped by yesterday to help spread some gravel in one of our barns -- with the able assistance of the latest farmhand (Nigusse) of course.
Nice results, don't you think?
Then it was time to introduce Nigu to an all-American favorite: hot dogs and potato salad.
The afternoon was spent teaching him how to fish in our pond.
Actually, he out-caught the rest of the gang by a wide margin. I tell you, the man is a lean, mean, fishing machine.
I think the total catch for the day numbered some 5 brim, 3 crappies, and 2 bass. Not bad for a couple hours of fun in the sun. Marshall caught his share, as did Thomas.
Then it was meal time again, and we were all eager to dig into the Ethiopian fare Becky had prepared.
It made Nigusse feel right at home -- and us feel homesick for Ethiopia.
Today I spent the day on campus revamping my fall syllabi and nursing my aching back, while Nigusse spoke with his colleagues in Alaba and Becky cooked a delicious supper consisting of the latest catch.
By the way: Please be in prayer for little Nathan in Alaba who was in Awasa recently with a bad case of Hepatitis. He's back in Alaba now but still very sick.
All in all, Nigusse is doing a great job of adjusting to life here. (I myself have only a dim comprehension of country life and the complex social behavior of Southside Virginia.) Beginning this week we will begin orientating him to the life of a seminary student and help him get organized for the coming semester, register him for his classes, etc. It's amazing to think that 8 years ago we didn't even know Nigusse, and now he is living in our home. And for that we give thanks.