Saturday, March 24
8:08 AM Still hearing the "click of death," this morning a friend of mine and I are planning on replacing our desk top's internal hard drive. I have no idea if Front Page will transfer or not -- and, as everyone knows, my blog is a dinosaur that still uses that now defunct program. So ... if you don't hear from me in a few days, or weeks, or months, you'll know why.
8:00 AM Bruce Ashford (an esteemed colleague of mine -- he asked me to say that) has published a helpful post called Seven Reflections on the Danger of Seminary. I double dare you to read all seven. And yes, Bruce, I have been and still am THAT GUY. Argh!
Friday, March 23
7:32 PM So Nigusse is about to hear Scott Hafemann give his plenary address at ETS, Becky is having dinner, and moi? I've been sitting on the front porch contemplating the Lord's great goodness to me and mine. A nice serendipity is watching the duck family that has adopted our pond. Here's the drake.
The hen is sitting on her egg on the little peninsula to the right. (Their egg, I mean.) Could this be the same family that visited us last year and left after a turtle snatched their eggs? If so, I do hope things work out better for them this year.
Honey, if you're reading this, the whole farm sends you a shout out -- including Mr. and Mrs. Duck.
7:06 PM I just re-read my 6:36 post and had to laugh out loud at my reference to the "resort" hotel where Becky is staying. I know of no one less "resorty" than my Becky!
6:54 PM In his essay Le Canon de la Bible, David Haines asks, Why do we have only 66 books in our Protestant Bible and why did the early church accept these books into its canon? Why did certain "gospels" fail to be recognized as canonical? Good questions all. He argues that canonical authority is found in the books themselves and not in the church.
Do you agree?
6:36 PM Praise the Lord! Becky has safely arrived at her 27 acre resort hotel in Myrtle Beach, SC. The ladies are going out for seafood tonoight before their first session. They're all looking forward to a walk on the pier tomorrow.
I am asking God to give Becky some good conversations this weekend. Larry Crabb once said, "In even the happiest of Christians there are deep pockets of incurable pain." Being a wife and mother and servant of the Lord is not easy today. Yet I find that circumstances do not change souls. Our response to them does. May these precious women from Bethel Hill each experience a new place of yieldedness before Him who has planned their lives, from the God who has taken the ultimate defeat and turned it inside out, from the Creator and Savior who knows them and loves them and deeply understands each one of them.
5:34 PM Ben Witherington has written a fine book called Is There a Doctor in the House? An Insider's Story and Advice on Becoming a Bible Scholar. I own the book and like it. Recently, Craig Blomberg of Denver Seminary reviewed it. One somewhat surprising comment stood out:
Blomberg quickly adds, however:
Amen to that. As for me, I've also tried to do what the more prodigious Witherington has done. You can read it here. No doubt it contains some "linguistic gaffes," which you are free to point out to me!
3:42 PM Is your church, like mine at Bethel Hill, moving toward a plurality of eldership and shared leadership? If so, you must read Matthew McDill's latest post called Moses and Shared Leadership. Matthew, by the way, wrote his doctoral dissertation under my supervision at SEBTS. So proud of you, Matt. Keep up the good work at Highland Christian Fellowship.
3:16 PM The Lonely Planet lists its top 20 Hawaiian vistas. The Nuuana Pali (#11) is certainly my favorite, and not only because I saw it every day while growing up in Kailua.
It's also a very historic site. In 1795, Kamehameha's Hawaiian troops pushed the Oahu fighters under Kalanikupule and Kaiana over the edge of the these cliffs and conquered the island. Ten years later, Kamehameha became the first king of a united Hawaii by capturing Kauai through diplomacy.
Today one drives through a pair of tunnels to pass through the Pali. When I was a small boy, we drove along the "old Pali road," which was nothing but a dirt pass. In the picture above you are actually looking at the western side of a volcanic caldera, the eastern side of which has long since disappeared due to erosion. Which means that I was raised in the middle of an extinct volcano!
12:26 PM Both Sheba and Dayda are now as clean as a whistle. Saved me about $80 by doing it myself, money that can go for my mission trips.
11:32 AM Today's to-do list:
I've finished the first 4!
9:07 AM Brother Jeff calls our attention to the correct translation of Abba in the New Testament. I quite agree. Abba was the term used by a son for a father in a home in which trusting obedience was at the core. "Dear Father" captures this thought nicely.
8:50 AM Jason Kees has some concerns about mixing politics and religion.
8:45 AM Bless his heart! Poor Jacob Cerone. Herr Cerone, who is about to read his ETS paper, has just discovered that someone has beat him to the punch. That someone is no less than Greg Beale. Ouch. You can commiserate with Jacob here.
Anyone claiming to have a "biblical understanding" of this or that is probably just repeating what someone else has already said or written. My own doctoral dissertation (Paul, Apostle of Weakness -- to be reissued this year by Wipf & Stock in a revised and updated form) may have been the first book in history to have systematically treated astheneia and its cognates in the Pauline letters, but its conclusions probably did not surprise too many people. There is a great deal of "weakness" theology in the major letters of Paul. It all leads to a simple, practical conclusion. I deserve no special merit for having systematized this information.
(By the way, this is the problem I have with so many new introductions to hermeneutics. Rarely if ever is anything new said.)
I agree with Jacob. If we are to engage in genuine scholarship rather than posturing and proof-texting, it is important to gain a lay of the land. We neglect what others have said to our own peril. Good dialogue is always possible. True, we want to appreciate the Bible for what it is, but we must also take seriously what others are saying about the Bible.
8:27 AM Good morning, fellow bloggers!
As you know, I'm involved in writing projects up to my eyeballs. One book I am currently writing is called Godworld. (I think I'll subtitle it something like Enter at Your Own Risk). Over the past few days I've spent a lot of time thinking about this topic. Emerson once noted in his Journal that "Life consists in what a man is thinking of all day." For many years a considerable portion of my time has been devoted to the problem of ecclesiology. Being stubborn by nature and a professor by training and education, I hold to the notion that the status quo is rarely acceptable. John Wesley wanted his movement to recover the full message and power of what he called "the Primitive Church." He was an ardent student of early Christianity. Wesley also studied the Anabaptist groups and the Moravians. Wesley and his followers knew that awakening interest in the church without bringing people to pursue Gospel living was a waste of time. When pre-Christian people talk about "church," unfortunately they often refer to people whose alien language and jargon have nothing to do with the real world in which these same people live. Christians dress and act in abnormal ways. Their traditionalist churchianity is a language no one seems to understand. The New Testament, by way of contrast, calls Christians to "exegete" the culture that God entrusts to them and to indigenize their faith -- witness the 18th century Methodists who wrote Christian hymns to be sung to the tunes people loved to sing in the public houses. As for missions, the New Testament calls all of us -- clergy and laity alike -- to live out our faith in our mundane professions. (Few are called to seminary!) We are to penetrate the culture for Christ and thus fulfill the second commandment to "love your neighbor as yourself." The love of which the New Testament speaks is not so much a feeling as a disposition of good will and service toward others, including people outside our own social networks, nationality, and race. We are to love others as God does. It is just as important that we love the lost as it is to believe that Jesus died for our sins. Growing into the likeness of Christ is essentially "downward mobility." Because people matter to God, they matter to us. The goal is not mere conversion but bringing people to full devotion to Christ. Evangelism is therefore normative for God's people. It is simply living and sharing the amazing good news about Jesus in one's own sphere of influence. This is the process I want to be involved in. It is the process of entering this amazing Godworld -- and doing so at our own risk! I want to be involved in this Godworld, not because I am a professor in a seminary, but simply because I am a follower of Jesus.
"Life consists in what a man is thinking of all day." I would not pretend that I am yet consumed with a love for the lost as Jesus was. I have, however, begun to travel this downward path of Jesus. Just as all Christians have been joined to Christ and participate in His life, so all Christians are called to the ministry of witness and invitation.
Think about it.
8:10 AM Just saw Becky off. She is looking forward to some serious iron-sharpening-iron. No interest whosoever in shopping or chit-chat. I know she will be a huge encouragement to the other ladies. She's also taking her face masks. Please pray that she doesn't get sick while she is away.
Thursday, March 22
8:48 PM Brief update:
1) I tried Wal-Mart, Radio Shack, and two computer stores in South Boston today and only one had an internal hard drive for sale and it was way too big for our needs.
2) Nigusse just called from campus. This week he took three quizzes and two exams. I don't see how he does it. I am, of course, one of his persecutors.
3) Becky leaves in the morning for her weekend retreat with the ladies of Bethel Hill. I am already missing her.
4) My Ed.D. student Thomas Hudgins is teaching Greek tonight -- in Spanish. The man deserves an A for guts alone. I'm so proud of you, Tomas!
5) Still reading and grading my essay exams. What a delightful task.
6) Do you use Kindle? If so, here are some Bibles you might like.
2:54 PM What a great quote from my former professor in Basel, Markus Barth:
2:36 PM I continue to be fascinated by the synoptic problem. My book Why Four Gospels? examines different elements that play an essential role in resolving this question.
My position is based on two foundational pillars: the external evidence provided by the earliest fathers that Matthew was the first of the canonical Gospels, and the internal evidence that suggests Mark is a conflation of Matthew and Luke (Orchard called this the "zigzagging effect"). I have yet to see a refutation of the external evidence. Most scholars reject the patristic testimony as being of little or no value for source-critical research. Since the internal evidence can never be probative (it can never prove anything about the sequence or interrelationships of the Gospels), it would seem that Gospel scholars would be all the more willing to take the external evidence into account. Whatever option is ultimately preferred, the internal evidence ought to be supplemented by considerations about the empirical circumstances under which the traditions about Jesus were developed in the earliest church. It may be that future generations of New Testament students will perform this task. If they don't, I predict very little progress in this great area of research. I would dare to hope that my re-examination of the leading church fathers will offer some helpful suggestions for the next generation of scholars.
If you would like to discuss with me the possibility of doing a doctorate under my supervision dealing with this neglect of the external evidence, please email me.
2:22 PM Just back from mowing. A perfect day outdoors. Back to my "other" life.
8:00 AM Talbot School of Theology of Biola University announces an opening in Old Testament and Semitics. Becky and I were associated with Biola for 27 years. You would enjoy teaching there. And Southern California is a great place to live except for the fires, floods, earthquakes, riots, and smog. (Just kidding.)
7:54 AM Becky updates us about her cancer in her essay At a Fork in the Road.
7:30 AM Odds and ends ...
1) Becky's chemo that was scheduled for 1:00 today has been postponed. Her counts are off. We'll try again on Monday.
2) We ran the air conditioner last night for the first time this year. And it's not even April.
3) My project du jour: grading these essay exams.
4) So proud of my students who are reading papers at this week's ETS meeting on campus:
Nigusse will be attending.
5) My assistant Matthew Myers continues his discussion of Bible translation with a great post called Biblical Censorship.
Wednesday, March 21
6:12 PM Greetings friends,
I have been thinking a lot about prayer lately. Right now I am praying for many things: wisdom for our Ethiopia team members, Christians in Ethiopia and other countries who are undergoing tremendous persecution, reconciliations, Becky's white count, students who are struggling with sin and failure. The strategy I follow is to speak honestly with God. I've discovered that I have to set my face like flint or I will be overwhelmed by life. Jesus had flint-like dedication to the task God had called Him to. He moved with absolute resolution as He pursued that path with all of its demands, set-backs, and deprivations. Yet He went to Jerusalem filled with joy and gratitude.
One thing I've discovered is that people today lack this kind of resolution. Our culture produces wimps and weaklings. The way we respond to the problems in our daily lives determines our growth in holiness. Of course it is difficult for me to counsel others since I have my own failed relationships and disappointments. There is virtually nothing I can do about them except to pray – to literally lift up my palms toward Heaven as a physical act denoting my surrender, my acceptance, my trust, my thanksgiving. I realize that only the Father can resolve these issues. Christianity is not for the weak of heart, although the world would have us think so. We have a whole Bible full of suffering and death. Becky's cancer is not a punishment. It is the result of living in a fallen world. My perpetually sore back reminds me that all of our physical aches and pains and diseases are the natural result of the curse on earth. The upside is that in the midst of our pain we get to see the power of the Light overcome the darkness. And it's quiet persistence that often makes the difference. The energy of pain can mobilize us to be more redemptive in our lives. This is where Isaiah 40:3 comes into play: Wait for the Lord to act.
On a different note, I leave for my next mission trip in a week. I'm so glad I have a beautiful wife who lets me go on these excursions. I pray for the God of Reconciliation to do His powerful work in the great nation I'll be in. He's already begun, and it is beautiful to behold. To say that I am excited doesn't begin to express my emotions.
Meanwhile, I hope that your eyes are fixed steadfastly on your own Jerusalem, and that you are full of joy as you move into the Easter season.
P.S. Becky has linked to a wonderful video. I trust it will lift you up as much it did me.
Tuesday, March 20
6:58 AM Excellent essay here: Analogy in favor of children in worship.
6:42 AM Our dogs are very special to us. For Scott Janssen, it took several rounds of mouth-to-mouth for him to realize just what role his sled dog Marshall played in his life. I listened to his story on Weekend Edition (NPR) while driving and almost lost it. Scott's story is incredible, touching, and emotionally tumultuous. Be prepared to reach for the Kleenex.
Monday, March 19
5:50 PM Profound thanks to Thomas Hugdins for his review of Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions?
5:34 PM Greetings, friends! I just put 591 miles on the Odyssey driving up to DC and back, and it turns out it was to no avail, thanks to government red tape. We'll still try and get Nigusse to Israel this summer, but if it doesn't work out he can always take his class at Jerusalem University College at a later date. I came home to a clicking hard drive -- everyone knows what that means. Becky and I will buy a new internal hard drive at Best Buy when we go to Chapel Hill on Thursday for her next chemo treatment. It may not be until Saturday morning that I can install it, however, so if you don't hear from us in a while you'll know why. In the meantime, a few pix for your evening entertainment:
1) Daniel and Lloyd with Nigusse during our dinner party this weekend. Both are missionaries -- Lloyd went with us to Alaba, while Daniel stayed behind and held the ropes in prayer. Both are indispensable partners in the work.
2) Here's a shot of Messiah Baptist Church on Sunday morning -- the people, not the building, of course. Nigusse brought a powerful message from Phil. 1:27-30. I even remember the outline: 1) We must persevere in unity for the sake of the Gospel, and 2) we must persevere in suffering for the sake of Jesus. Ah, there's that word perseverance again. It's so easy to start something and so hard to finish it!
3) In Christ there is no East or West!
4) The DC area has no lack of good Ethiopian restaurants. We dined at Meaza's in Arlington. Here's Nigu with his good buddy Haile.
5) We took the Metro to Embassy Row where we happened to stumble upon this building while looking for the Israeli Embassy. Small world.
6) How was the traffic? you ask. Bumper to bumper from Richmond north on I-95. We got off the interstate and took surface roads up to our hotel in Falls Church, then we returned via Hwy 15 -- with all of it historic homes and red bud trees. Purty, eh?
As I said, the plan is to continue chemotherapy this week, pending the results of Becky's blood work tomorrow. This weekend Nigusse is looking forward to attending the regional ETS meeting on campus, while Becky will be attending a women's retreat at the coast, Lord willing. I will do animal care and work on the pooter.
Sunday, March 18
8:15 AM As everyone knows, an Austrian sky diver is hoping to make the world's highest sky dive this summer -- from space no less. He just completed a test jump. Once again, man attempts the "impossible."
I think of that student in my office last week asking me where he should go for a Ph.D. My first response is usually, "Well, you might try Oxford or Cambridge." Reach high. You'll never reach higher. You say, "I could never study abroad in a university like that!" No? Didn't Don Carson? Didn't Darrell Bock? Didn't Buist Fanning? Didn't Scot McKnight? Didn't John Piper? One of my own Th.M. students is hoping to begin doctoral studies in Munich shortly. Am I minimizing our own doctoral program? Not at all. I accept Ph.D. students. We have a strong program, and our students have been placed as teachers here and around the world. I just don't think you should automatically exclude foreign studies as if they were something "impossible." Let's not put God in a box in any way, shape, or form. Lay all the cards on the table, and watch Him sort everything out.
7:54 AM John Stackhouse just posted an excellent piece about the current glut of unemployed PhDs in biblical studies (referring to the "horrifying raw numbers"). The bottom of the bottom line? "If you've got what it takes, good colleges and universities will see that and hire you." I agree. But I would like to take it a step farther. Have you ever considered becoming an academic missionary in a place like China or Lithuania or Hungary or Cambodia? I'm not talking about English teachers. I'm talking about professors of Bible or Old Testament or New Testament. If so, the IICS can help. They have helped placed hundreds of U.S. scholars in international contexts, scholars, in fact, of many different disciplines.
Note: I said "academic missionary." I personally am a "missionary academic." The difference is subtle but important. I have a permanent teaching post here in the States but use my vacation time traveling internationally to teach in other countries. I believe that all of us who teach in the field of biblical studies can be a missionary academic. An "academic missionary," on the other hand, resides permanently abroad and uses his or her classroom as an opportunity to developed relationships with a view toward sharing the love and lordship of Jesus with their students. Whereas we have a glut of teachers here in the States (those "horrifying raw numbers"), teaching posts abroad remain unfilled. My small experience goes to support the claim that once a student begins to become concerned about overseas missions, and starts to pray earnestly for laborers to be thrust forth into the harvest, before long he or she begins asking the Lord, "Is it I?" I believe that all of us who teach in America can do a great deal to encourage this outward look, even in a small way, by spending at least one vacation each year ministering abroad. I believe that this sort of cross-cultural enrichment will strengthen not only the home church but also those believers in foreign lands.
Ph.D. student, will you pray about "moving from here to there" as the Lord guides you? If He says "No" to a teaching post here, then maybe He's wanting to say "Yes" to one in a foreign nation. The fields are white unto harvest. The laborers are few. God is going to need a lot of help to reach the nations, not least from well-qualified graduates in biblical studies. Maybe that includes you?
Saturday, March 17
2:34 PM I do believe every able-bodied male in the great State of Virginia was out mowing their yard today. Including a few old duffers like me. I mowed, edged, and trimmed, before feeling led to come indoors and take a much needed nap. Got a big party tonight to rest up for!
11:25 AM Our study in Philippians went from 8:00 to 10:45. Rich. Felt like we were just getting started when we looked at our watches. "To get the full flavor of an herb, it must be pressed between the fingers. So it is the same with the Scriptures. The more familiar they become, the more they reveal their hidden treasures and yield their indescribable riches." So said Chysostom. He was right.
7:15 AM Off to my Bible study in Philippians. Today we are studying the passage about Timothy. His example of selflessness shames me.
7:12 AM "We must be global Christians with a global vision because our God is a global God." -- John Stott.
Thus begins my little book on global missions. It ends with an invitation to sign a commitment statement. You can imagine, then, my delight when I saw this email today:
Missions is not the task of professional missionaries alone. It is not an extra option for those who enjoy that sort of thing. It is the sacred duty of each one of us.
6:54 AM Good morning!
Friday, March 16
6:44 PM Tonight I treated Becky and Nigusse to the best little seafood place in all of North Carolina.
It was a historic evening indeed. Here's Nigu enjoying his very first bite of a hushpuppy. Food don't get mo suthun than that, folks.
Of course, Becky and I were only too happy to join in the festivities.
When Nigusse asked where the word "hushpuppy" came from, we of course explained it to him. But a picture is worth a thousand words, I do believe.
3:26 PM Arthur Sido has begun blogging on the book of Hebrews, beginning with the opening prologue of 1:1-4 -- the most beautifully constructed sentence in the entire Greek New Testament. I have likened it to the narthex of a great cathedral.
It pulls you in until there you stand -- in the midst of a beautiful sanctuary of truth with all its symmetry, precision, magnificence, and sublimity. I call the book the "cathedral of Christianity." The Westminster Theological Journal once published an essay of mine called "Hebrews 1:1-4: A Study in Discourse Analysis" in which I discuss this paragraph in minutest detail. Email me if you'd like to see it.
12:42 PM This morning, as he does every Friday morning, Nigusse was praying upstairs in his room. His prayers border on shouting. This is the Ethiopian way. It is very powerful. I thought to myself, "Why don't I pray that way? It is merely a cultural thing?" Consider these verses:
Am I missing something?
12:35 PM Somebody needs to hit me with the stupid stick again. Two weeks ago I sprayed Round Up on Becky's garden beds. I inadvertently sprayed a bed in which she had just planted some bulbs. Ouch! But I think I have redeemed myself -- most of the bulbs I was able to dig up, and I will replant them this afternoon. Sure hope they survive.
12:22 PM Looking ahead:
1) Tomorrow night here at the farm we're having a reunion of our missionaries who went with us to Alaba, Ethiopia in 2007.
2) On Sunday Nigusse is speaking about Ethiopia at Messiah Baptist Church near Wake Forest. One of their elders, Alan Knox, is an Ethiopian veteran. He went with us in 2010 as part of this team. Can you recognize him? He's the tall, dark, and handsome one :)
3) On Monday I am taking Nigu to the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC, for his required interview before he can get a visa to study there this summer.
4) Next Thursday we've rescheduled Becky's chemo treatment at UNC. If her counts are high enough, I will take my wife to a hospital and intentionally poison her. Such is life with cancer, which is the most irrational disease I know of.
5) On campus this week there was a great deal of discussion about whether or not we were going to hold our semi-annual Student Day at the farm. I mentioned to my students the concern I have about over-taxing Becky's energies. I said I would talk to Becky about it -- if I had at least 5 young ladies who would volunteer to come early and help Becky clean and set up. Well, more than 5 signed on the dotted line! So Becky has declared Saturday, April 28, to be Student Day at Rosewood Farm. We'll combine food, fellowship, and fun with some work projects around the farm. Students, please mark your calendars now. We'll gather from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
8:30 AM My dear wife just keeps churning out those essays. Her latest is called On Dealing with Reality. The conclusion of the matter?
7:59 AM Where does God live? In your kitchen!
7:55 AM Chris White, one of my students, has been teaching beginning Greek in his local church and has begun publishing a few You Tubes of their experience. I thought you might enjoy watching one of them. Whether you're a rank beginner or an accomplished scholar, I think you'll greatly benefit from his manner of presentation.
7:50 AM Greetings to all of you out there in cyberspace! Grab a cup of coffee and let's sit a spell, shall we? Here's a quote I'd like you to ponder. It's by one of America's favorite theologians, Mark Twain:
In two weeks I'll be traveling 7,000 miles to a country that is vastly different from America. This summer I'll be co-leading a team of short-termers on yet another missionary trip to Ethiopia. Traveling is difficult but it opens up the greater world around us. Personally, it has helped me to overcome my ethnocentrism that makes me think that somehow America is the center of the universe. Make friends in other cultures and you will soon leave your stereotypes behind. The "call" to missions is nothing other than the call to step out of our world and begin to wrestle with the implications of the Great Commission in our own lives. God has called every Christian to missionary service. And the mission field is right where you are. In addition, every believer is to pray for the nations and support the cause of global missions, and even go if able. Each of us is to make Christ's name known around the world. I have traveled in many countries and have known many missionaries, but I have never met a missionary who did not weep over the sound of pagan footsteps on their way to a Christless eternity. I have never met a missionary who thought that America was more important than the other 168 nations on this planet. I have never met a missionary whose love for politics or sports was more passionate than their love for the lost. Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse, used to pray: "Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God." The Bible is perfectly clear: The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. In other words, a lost world needs Christ. And He is calling us – you and me – to take the gospel to the nations. The missionary call, just like the love you feel for your spouse, is uniquely personal. Seek to live the missionary call with all you are and with all you have. Engage in international missions as time and opportunity allow. What a joy it is to travel in the name of King Jesus! My prayer is that each of my readers will hear and respond to God’s call to global missions. Central to my concern in maintaining this blog is that the way missions has been outsourced over the last two generations is no longer an adequate model for twenty-first century missions. As the church advances into new cultural centers around the world, traditional sending structures will have to give way to new kinds of missionary efforts that transcend denominational and confessional entities. Don't get me wrong. I am not referring to a type of ecumenism that sacrifices the essentials of historic Christianity. I am referring to a deeper ecumenism that accepts African and Asian Christianity as equal partners in the missionary task. Clearly, the time is ripe for Christians of every nation to work cooperatively to advance the cause of Christ. This will not happen until Christians in North America move from a "church-focused" to a "world-focused" emphasis. It will require the efforts of both clergy and laity, in fact, a general mobilization of all the faithful. An overly privatized view of salvation will have to give way to a view of the church as a redemptive community. "There is no participation in Christ without participation in His mission to the world" is how the 1952 Willengen Conference put it. Seminary curricula will have to be immersed in a thoroughly missional and ecclesiological framework. Students will have to learn how to become counter-cultural. A renewed emphasis upon intensive discipleship will have to permeate our churches. Missions will then become the natural extension of a dynamic community, the body of Christ. Christian ministry will be viewed through the broadest possible lens. Evangelism and social action will become every bit as connected as the two blades of a pair of scissors. Just as Jesus was sent out into the world to teach, preach, and heal (Matt. 9:35), so we have been sent into the world to continue to reflect Jesus' ministry.
So then, my dear blog peeps, let's get "on the road" for Jesus and out of our America-first myopia. I am convinced that diabolic nationalism keeps many Christians from fulfilling the Great Commission. The bottom line is that God plays no favorites. He is color blind, status blind, wealth blind, and nation blind. There are many loathsome aspects of the current presidential race, but none is more insidious than the notion that America has more value than any other nation. Let's not be co-opted into becoming cheerleaders for the pro-America Jesus! I'm not saying that you shouldn't vote. I'm not saying you can't get involved in politics. But just don't label your man the "Christian" candidate for "Christian America." The only Christian nation God is building today is one comprised of blood-bought sinners.
Thursday, March 15
8:42 PM Seminary update:
1) Our campus looked absolutely gorgeous this week. Spring has most certainly arrived. There is no more beautiful campus in North America, bar none.
2) This week both ATS and SACS were on campus for our 10-year reaccredidation visits. Which meant that the faculty were asked to wear matching golf shirts. (We're Baptists, remember?) Lookie here: My colleague in the music department, John Boozer, wore the wrong color trousers. We placed him under arrest and sent him away to the local jail. Not to mention extending his days in purgatory.
3) I finished reading the following books while on campus this week:
I was really hoping these books would shed some guidance on my calling as a missionary academic. Instead, I found myself questioning the logic behind several of these tomes. Oh well.
And yes, I do speed read.
4) Yesterday I lectured on the subject of New Testament textual criticism, a topic that demands our attention today as perhaps never before (think Bart Ehrman). My goal was to try and engage the most important aspects of textual criticism in a way that people who lack technical knowledge of the subject could understand it. As I prepared for my talk I realized anew just how little I have pierced into the intricacies of this subject. (In my book New Testament Textual Criticism I sought to communicate clearly and relevantly how the discipline impacts our understanding of the New Testament.) I want to thank my students for their attentiveness and unfailing courtesy and encouragement. Most of all, I want to thank God for preserving for His church the very words of Scripture. It is impossible to exaggerate the relevance of textual criticism for exegesis. The New Testament is without doubt the best attested document from the ancient world. Thanks be to God for this inexpressible gift.
By the way, during class my good friend Dan Wallace stopped by to pay us a visit via You Tube. He spoke about the 400,000 variants in the manuscripts of the Greek New Testament, most of which are, of course, completely insignificant.
To illustrate his point, Dan noted that the sentence "Jesus loves John" has at least 18 permutations in Greek, indeed many more than that. I sauntered over to Google to see if anyone had published a list with those words in Greek and, finding none, decided I'd put together my own list. I stopped at 96. Feel free to copy and use -- and add some more to -- my list (which has also been published here).
’Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ ’Ιωάννην.
’Ιησοῦς ’Ιωάννην ἀγαπᾷ.
ἀγαπᾷ ’Ιησοῦς ’Ιωάννην.
ἀγαπᾷ ’Ιωάννην ’Ιησοῦς.
’Ιωάννην ἀγαπᾷ ’Ιησοῦς.
’Ιωάννην ’Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ.
ὁ ’Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ ’Ιωάννην.
ὁ ’Ιησοῦς ’Ιωάννην ἀγαπᾷ.
ἀγαπᾷ ὁ ’Ιησοῦς ’Ιωάννην.
ἀγαπᾷ ’Ιωάννην ὁ ’Ιησοῦς.
’Ιωάννην ὁ ’Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ.
’Ιωάννην ἀγαπᾷ ὁ ’Ιησοῦς.
’Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ τὸν ’Ιωάννην.
’Ιησοῦς τὸν ’Ιωάννην ἀγαπᾷ.
ἀγαπᾷ ’Ιησοῦς τὸν ’Ιωάννην.
ἀγαπᾷ τὸν ’Ιωάννην ’Ιησοῦς.
τὸν ’Ιωάννην ’Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ.
τὸν ’Ιωάννην ἀγαπᾷ ’Ιησοῦς.
ὁ ’Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ τὸν ’Ιωάννην.
ὁ ’Ιησοῦς τὸν ’Ιωάννην ἀγαπᾷ.
ἀγαπᾷ ὁ ’Ιησοῦς τὸν ’Ιωάννην.
ἀγαπᾷ τὸν ’Ιωάννην ὁ ’Ιησοῦς.
τὸν ’Ιωάννην ἀγαπᾷ ὁ ’Ιησοῦς.
τὸν ’Ιωάννην ὁ ’Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ.
’Ιησοῦς φιλεῖ ’Ιωάννην.
’Ιησοῦς ’Ιωάννην φιλεῖ.
φιλεῖ ’Ιησοῦς ’Ιωάννην.
φιλεῖ ’Ιωάννην ’Ιησοῦς.
’Ιωάννην ’Ιησοῦς φιλεῖ.
’Ιωάννην φιλεῖ ’Ιησοῦς.
ὁ ’Ιησοῦς φιλεῖ ’Ιωάννην.
ὁ ’Ιησοῦς ’Ιωάννην φιλεῖ.
φιλεῖ ὁ ’Ιησοῦς ’Ιωάννην.
φιλεῖ ’Ιωάννην ὁ ’Ιησοῦς.
’Ιωάννην ὁ ’Ιησοῦς φιλεῖ.
’Ιωάννην φιλεῖ ὁ ’Ιησοῦς.
’Ιησοῦς φιλεῖ τὸν ’Ιωάννην.
’Ιησοῦς τὸν ’Ιωάννην φιλεῖ.
φιλεῖ ’Ιησοῦς τὸν ’Ιωάννην.
φιλεῖ τὸν ’Ιωάννην ’Ιησοῦς.
τὸν ’Ιωάννην ’Ιησοῦς φιλεῖ.
τὸν ’Ιωάννην φιλεῖ ’Ιησοῦς.
ὁ ’Ιησοῦς φιλεῖ τὸν ’Ιωάννην.
ὁ ’Ιησοῦς τὸν ’Ιωάννην φιλεῖ.
φιλεῖ ὁ ’Ιησοῦς τὸν ’Ιωάννην.
φιλεῖ τὸν ’Ιωάννην ὁ ’Ιησοῦς.
τὸν ’Ιωάννην φιλεῖ ὁ ’Ιησοῦς.
τὸν ’Ιωάννην ὁ ’Ιησοῦς φιλεῖ.
’Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ ’Ιωάνην.
’Ιησοῦς ’Ιωάνην ἀγαπᾷ.
ἀγαπᾷ ’Ιησοῦς ’Ιωάνην.
ἀγαπᾷ ’Ιωάνην ’Ιησοῦς.
’Ιωάνην ’Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ.
’Ιωάνην ἀγαπᾷ ’Ιησοῦς.
ὁ ’Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ ’Ιωάνην.
ὁ ’Ιησοῦς ’Ιωάνην ἀγαπᾷ.
ἀγαπᾷ ὁ ’Ιησοῦς ’Ιωάνην.
ἀγαπᾷ ’Ιωάνην ὁ ’Ιησοῦς.
’Ιωάνην ὁ ’Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ.
’Ιωάνην ἀγαπᾷ ὁ ’Ιησοῦς.
’Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ τὸν ’Ιωάνην.
’Ιησοῦς τὸν ’Ιωάνην ἀγαπᾷ.
ἀγαπᾷ ’Ιησοῦς τὸν ’Ιωάνην.
ἀγαπᾷ τὸν ’Ιωάνην ’Ιησοῦς.
τὸν ’Ιωάνην ’Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ.
τὸν ’Ιωάνην ἀγαπᾷ ’Ιησοῦς.
ὁ ’Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ τὸν ’Ιωάνην.
ὁ ’Ιησοῦς τὸν ’Ιωάνην ἀγαπᾷ.
ἀγαπᾷ ὁ ’Ιησοῦς τὸν ’Ιωάνην.
ἀγαπᾷ τὸν ’Ιωάνην ὁ ’Ιησοῦς.
τὸν ’Ιωάνην ὁ ’Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ.
τὸν ’Ιωάνην ἀγαπᾷ ὁ ’Ιησοῦς.
’Ιησοῦς φιλεῖ ’Ιωάνην.
’Ιησοῦς ’Ιωάνην φιλεῖ.
φιλεῖ ’Ιησοῦς ’Ιωάνην.
φιλεῖ ’Ιωάνην ’Ιησοῦς.
’Ιωάνην φιλεῖ ’Ιησοῦς.
’Ιωάνην ’Ιησοῦς φιλεῖ.
ὁ ’Ιησοῦς φιλεῖ ’Ιωάνην.
ὁ ’Ιησοῦς ’Ιωάνην φιλεῖ.
φιλεῖ ὁ ’Ιησοῦς ’Ιωάνην.
φιλεῖ ’Ιωάνην ὁ ’Ιησοῦς.
’Ιωάνην ὁ ’Ιησοῦς φιλεῖ.
’Ιωάνην φιλεῖ ὁ ’Ιησοῦς.
’Ιησοῦς φιλεῖ τὸν ’Ιωάνην.
’Ιησοῦς τὸν ’Ιωάνην φιλεῖ.
φιλεῖ ’Ιησοῦς τὸν ’Ιωάνην.
φιλεῖ τὸν ’Ιωάνην ’Ιησοῦς.
τὸν ’Ιωάνην ’Ιησοῦς φιλεῖ.
τὸν ’Ιωάνην φιλεῖ ’Ιησοῦς.
ὁ ’Ιησοῦς φιλεῖ τὸν ’Ιωάνην.
ὁ ’Ιησοῦς τὸν ’Ιωάνην φιλεῖ.
φιλεῖ ὁ ’Ιησοῦς τὸν ’Ιωάνην.
φιλεῖ τὸν ’Ιωάνην ὁ ’Ιησοῦς.
τὸν ’Ιωάνην φιλεῖ ὁ ’Ιησοῦς.
τὸν ’Ιωάνην ὁ ’Ιησοῦς φιλεῖ.
7:30 PM A few odds and ends …
Yes indeed, yet another great blog from Down Under. No moronic pontifications here.
2) Paul Himes asks, If Jude is citing 1 Enoch, is that a problem for inerrancy? It begins with this "hook":
Don't miss Paul's peroration.
3) Here's a really neat video, made just for my wife. Thank you for posting it, Thomas.
4) Matthew Myers takes on the traditional rendering of John 3:16:
Which rendering do you prefer, and why?
5) Somerset Christian College announces an opening in Biblical Studies.
6) Enjoyed reading Jody Neufeld's excellent Out on a Limb in a First Century Church.
7) Isn't blogging a blast?
7:18 PM Once again, a blogger has squandered away precious minutes to write a hilarious review of my Why Four Gospels? If you'd like to learn why the synoptic problem isn't really boring, do read what he says. You may even wish you had jettisoned Q and its cohorts a long time ago.
7:12 PM Last Monday, on a flight from Dallas to Raleigh, I had the very good fortune to sit next to a Shakespearean scholar who teaches at UNC Chapel Hill. Our conversation took many interesting twists and turns, not least into an area of study we both love, teaching and learning. Christopher Mead Armitage once studied under the famous C. S. Lewis and, what's more, has written about that experience in a delightful essay called Smartened Up by Lewis (.pdf). How charming was this statement:
"The subject, not himself." Well put indeed.
But can the two ever really be separated?
6:55 PM Ron Paul fascinates me. I like the man. Issues aside, his campaign has several aspects to it I think are downright admirable.
1) He's durable. He's already outlasted most of the other GOP contenders. Will he win the nomination? Of course not. The best he can hope for is a speaker's slot at the convention. And he'll get it because of his tenacity. (Are you listening, Sarah and Rick?)
2) He's an underdog. I've always been an incurable infracaninophile. I realize that, to many people, Paul represents a "lost cause." He's considered eccentric at best, a self-deluded obscurantist at worst. But there is nothing wrong with thinking outside the box. I love people who espouse minority views. Sometimes they turn out to be right.
3) He's an insider. That is, he works within the status quo in order to change it. Let others campaign under the flag of the Constitution Party. That's not the track Paul is on. He seeks to reform the GOP from within. His message is a simple one: "The Constitution is the law of land. Why not obey it?" Good question, if you ask me.
4) This last point reminds me that Paul is a radical. He's calling America back to her radix, her rootedness in a philosophy that limits government's powers. He's like one of those sixteenth century Anabaptists who not only espouses sola scriptura but practices it. Gotta love a guy like that.
5) Finally, Paul lacks charisma. Ever notice that? The man looks awkward in his ill-fitting business suits. His speech lacks polish. No one would claim that Paul looks like a winner. But could this not be an asset in life? The charlatan talks a good game, may even dress the part. But with Paul, what you see is what you get. I suppose he feels as uncomfortable in his "spit and polish" role as he does sitting in a Congress that is far more glitter than gold.
The Ron Paul Revolution hasn't attracted arcane traditionalists. It never will. Support runs strongest among younger voters. Mathematically, his is a lost cause. The establishment practically ignores him. But I like him. I've always liked those constitutionalists who are ill-suited for straight-jackets.
Monday, March 12
10:24 PM Greetings to all of you cybernetic peeps out there. It's been a while. Today I returned from the Big D and am ready to give you a brief update, if you can handle it :)
1) Mom and dad treated me to the # 1 Ethiopian restaurant in Dallas/Lake Highlands region -- Sheba's Ethiopian Kitchen. You MUST try it when you're in the area the next time. The highlight? Calling Becky on dad's cell phone and talking to her in Amharic. Igig betam ewodashalu!
2) On Thursday morning I pampered mom who is most deserving of it. We had breakfast at the Café de France in Plano. And can you believe it -- the place had cloth tablecloths and napkins. Unheard of nowadays. It was a real taste of Europe. Mom tells me the crêpes she ordered were the best she's ever eaten. She is one special woman.
3) The ETS regional conference at Southwestern was no disappointment. The papers were great, but the highlight was the plenary session in which my esteemed colleague Andreas Köstenberger waxed elephant about the biblical theology of the New Testament, a subject in which he is fast becoming a leading expert. I took gobs of notes, but his last statement was probably his best. Quoting A. Einstein, he stated, "Make everything as simple as possible, but never simple." The dean of the school of theology (David Allen) and I went out for some REAL Texas barbeque for lunch on Friday, during which time I tried my very best to disabuse him of his erroneous and oddball views concerning the Lukan authorship of Hebrews, but to no avail. And I thought that I was an obscurantist.
4) The rains came down in buckets on Saturday afternoon but not before mom and I had planted her perennials and had rooted this rose bush that she had transplanted to Texas from her former home in Burji, Ethiopia. The idea is for mom to bring a root or two for us to plant here in Virginia when she comes in July to take care of Becky during my trip to Ethiopia.
5) Finally, this morning I met with Chris and Brady Clayton in Dallas to bring them up to speed on the July trip. They are the first Texans to join us in the Great Adventure and will add tremendously to our team. I gave them a brief overview of the work and had them sign our waiver. (Someday I might share that document with you.)
One more note: We had to cancel Becky's chemo treatment today as her white counts continue to go south. Please pray that God gives her energy and strength to accomplish the writing projects she feels the Lord would have to complete.
Wednesday, March 7
6:50 AM Becky continues her vignettes of life in Ethiopia with her latest essay called The Evangelists of Gondar.
6:43 AM Tonight Mr. Lapsley (Becky's dad) and I are planning on attending the Civil War Round Table of Dallas. The speaker is none other than Ed Bearss, Chairman Emeritus of the National Park Service and one of America's most renowned Civil War historians. His topic is a doozy: "Civil War Medicine vs. WW II." Bearss, now in his 80s, still leads as many as 200 battlefield tours every year.
I'm also looking forward to helping mom with her garden. She tells she even bought a brand new wheelbarrow just for me!
6:37 AM I am challenged by the idea of writing a short, simple, and non-technical book about the Anabaptists -- one that would bring them into focus for those who want to know more about them. I'll be working on this project during my visit to the Big D this week. If the Anabaptists had but one goal, I think it was this: "Let's get back to the business of being the church!" They asked: What ought to be the goals of a local church? How do we get people committed to the right things? How can we prioritize missions?
You're sitting there thinking, "Yes, and D-O-G spells 'dog.'" These questions seem trite and obvious, I know. But I wonder if your philosophy of ministry -- and mine -- could use a jump start from time to time, one straight from the sixteenth century from a group of radicals who were emptied of self-sufficiency and who accepted the challenge of reaching the lost all around them. As we join them on our knees, perhaps we will see the power of God in our lives as they did.
6:33 AM Here's a heartwarming story from my alma mater, Biola University: Brown Bag ministry serves homeless of Long Beach. I loved this part:
When I was at Biola in the early 1970s, every student was required to have a "Christian service assignment" that got him or her out into the community, where the needs lay aplenty. I chose to play basketball every Saturday in a pretty tough neighborhood called Watts so as to build relationships with the street kids and share with them the love of Jesus.
I often wonder what ever happened to those kids I played ball with so many years ago. Thankfully, God knows exactly where they are. He knows them. He loves them. He understands them. God bless you young men, wherever you are today.
Tuesday, March 6
5:07 PM I just finished feeding the animals and couldn't help but snap this picture of our back yard. I mowed it today. Can you believe how green everything is? Spring is in the air again -- that spunky season that makes you want to get outside and start gardening!
4:54 PM Today a student sent along a link to this Bible app:
I just downloaded it. It is great. Thank you Jason!
2:24 PM I just made a trash run. Love it. Nothing like getting dirty and smelly. Reminds me that I am really nothin' but a country redneck.
1:05 PM Want to check the progress of our intrepid missionaries to India as they return home? Go here: http://flightaware.com/live/flight/BAW142. Their flight departs London at 5:30 pm EST.
1:02 PM Klutz Alert! It is now past one o'clock. I started fixing the flat tire on our old truck at 10:00. That's three hours to do a simple task. The truck had neither jack nor lug wrench. The lug wrenches from my other cars didn't fit. (The truck was built in the Pre-Cambrian Age.) I drove to town (not in the truck of course) to buy a four-way wrench. I then got the lug nuts off but the wheel was stuck to the rotor (rust). I tried everything and then, in disgust, kicked the tired (with righteous anger, of course). Guess what? The tire came loose. I just got back from having the tire patched at the local tire shop and replaced it. We're good to until the next finishing nail decides to pay us us a visit.
And to think how much longer it would have taken to finish this job had I not been so gifted with my hands.
9:45 AM Today in history: Friedrich Bayer trade-marked a new drug called Aspirin. And everyone said Amen.
8:55 AM Allan Bevere says Make It Easy for Someone to Preach Your Funeral. The money quote:
7:32 AM Aren't you amazed by the book of Acts? I am. Its principles for Christian ministry and church structure are so radically different from what is taught and practiced in so many of our churches today. (Can you really see Peter and his wife on a rooftop promoting their new book on sex?) Here's the problem. It is easy to talk about New Testament church life. It is much harder to practice it. I am very grateful for pastors at Bethel Hill who have taught us the major themes of Acts, including biblical eldership. It gives me renewed hope that things can actually change. So what if we fail? It's better to try and fail than to sit around and do nothing. Acts has so much to say about church planting, missions, evangelism, church polity, and so much more. No book is more relevant for our times. But with knowledge comes responsibility. Obedience to Christ must be wholehearted. Jesus cannot work through disobedient disciples. If we want to see a genuine Great Commission resurgence in our day, we must get serious about obeying our risen Lord. We grieve the Holy Spirit when we sin either by commission or omission and are not quick to repent. The first Christians sought not only to understand as much as they could the "apostles' doctrine" (Acts 2:42) but to obey it, whatever the cost. If they were here today, I imagine they would be watching Bethel Hill Baptist Church very closely. They would tell us not to be afraid of the Holy Spirit, of His sensitive touch, of His guidance and power, of His desire to empower the church so that we might believe and obey. Their example stands like a lighthouse to us in our drifting. They would remind us that obedience is not a luxury. It is a top priority if a church is to grow and prosper.
7:02 AM Praying for this young man as he has surgery this Thursday. Andrew, we love you!
Monday, March 5
7:54 PM You'll never guess what I cooked for supper tonight (wink, wink). It even included my secret ingredient. I do believe it's the best supper I've had all day!
4:11 PM Looking ahead ...
2) I'll be taking, Lord willing, Nigusse to Washington DC on Monday, March 19, to get his Israeli visa. Hoping to stop here along the way:
3) My next international mission trip begins on March 29. Can't wait!
4) If she is feeling up to it, Becky and I are planning on attending Danny and Charlotte Akin's family life conference at SEBTS on April 13-14, along with other Bethel Hillians. I think this is the first ever marriage seminary we've attended. You're never too old to learn how to be a better spouse.
10:46 AM This weekend's ETS Southwest regional meeting at SWBTS should be a blast. I'm eager to hear these papers:
I am also looking forward to having lunch with Southwestern's dean, David Allen, who has the nerve to defend the Lukan authorship of Hebrews. L'audace, l'audace, toujours l'audace!
10:35 AM Rod Decker, thank you for making a distinction between the church and the building!
9:01 AM From time to time someone asks us if they can support an Ethiopian evangelist financially. Good question! The answer is found in Becky's latest essay called Financial Support for Evangelists.
7:34 AM Confession time. I love my iPad. It was given to me while I was in Asia last year. Although I am a complete idiot when it comes to electronics, I can now swipe its screen with the best of them. I can check emails and listen to music and play scrabble all at the touch of a pixel or two. In fact, I can easily envision the all-iPad classroom. But come on -- why the zany keyboard? And please, somebody stop the Apple pop-ups! And why can't I open more than one window at a time? Did I mention it's slow? And lacks a back button?
I realize that Paul said we are to do all things without grumbling and complaining (Phil. 2:14). But he never owned an iPad.
What do you think? Will the iPad 3 be any better?
7:18 AM Loved this essay by Paige Patterson on the SBC name change. I especially appreciated this:
Wise counsel indeed.
7:06 AM Five Ethiopian evangelists have now been adopted. Let the praying begin!
7:00 AM Check out these pictures of life in war-torn Somalia. Glad for a photographer who was willing to expose the situation to the world. "I'm drawn to places that most aren't willing to go," he said. Read that again:
That should be true of every one of us who claims the name of Jesus. It takes courage to be on mission for Christ. The courage of the Anabaptists is one of the reasons I love them so much (see, for example, Felix Mantz, Man of Conscience). It's also why I love our missionaries to Ethiopia. They are going to hard places. Intentionally. Places others do not want to go. Not flippantly, of course. But they go. I praise God for them.
Are you going?
Sunday, March 4
2:10 PM There is nothing more enjoyable than to watch God's people getting caught up in what is eternally important. The clear command of our Lord is to go into the world -- whether that world be across the planet or across the street. Today brother Rick Godwin (an Ethiopia veteran) gave a wonderful report of the work Bethel Hillians have been doing in partnering with Rebuilding Hope in Henderson, NC.
Recently Rick and several others from The Hill helped build a handicapped ramp for a woman, and other projects are being planned for the coming months. I have seen wonderful spiritual renewal come to churches when they have united around a common cause, the cause of the Gospel.
Rick, your report made my day!
1:52 PM Believe it or not, the Internet in India is working again, and today we received a wonderful email update from our son Nigusse. Both he and Joel spoke this morning at the Sunday service in Bagdogra. They just returned from the Bhutan and Bangladesh borders where they "visited many churches and shared the gospel with many people." Nigusse goes on to say:
He requests prayer so that they might "finish well and being glory to God." You got it, Nigu.
1:43 PM Just saw an announcement for a cello and piano concert at our former church in Basel. Wish Becky and I could attend. Die Baptistengemeinde Basel welcomed us with open hearts and minds. It was but a short walk from our one room apartment on the Immengasse. What unforgettable relationships we had with our precious Baptist brothers and sisters in that storied city on the Rhine.
8:44 AM How should we do missions? By following the example of the four men who carried the paralytic to Jesus!
Someone has to get the idea. Someone has to organize the work. And someone has to put his hand to the stretcher.
By the way, they must also work together. Imagine what would happen if they came to a crossroads and two of them wanted to go right and two of them wanted to go left? Or if three of them wanted to walk and the fourth wanted to sprint? Helping people get to Jesus takes teamwork.
Have you noticed? Missions is the perfect laboratory for testing our commitment to Christian unity.
7:56 AM Speaking of the UK, one of the most enjoyable things about researching my book Why Four Gospels? was discovering all of the used bookstores in London. If you are looking for that hard-to-find tome, check out Piccadilly Circus and you will not be disappointed. There I found Jimmy James' escape autobiography that I had been trying to locate for years. (Jimmy went out in the famous Great Escape of 1944.) Naturally, unless you're visiting London, this is impossible, but I thought I'd mention it anyway. I especially recommend Waterstones.
Do you have a favorite brick and mortar bookstore?
7:50 AM Required reading for our Ethiopia team members: How (Not) to be an American Missionary in Scotland. Note this:
That, of course, takes humility and a commitment to cooperation, but oh, the benefits!
7:43 AM If there is a heaven on earth I think I found it at last. We had a wonderful meeting yesterday as we met with those who are interested in going with us to Ethiopia in July. This is what they looked like.
So many nice people to get to know. Many of them are veterans of the work. I'm delighted about that. All can expect to apply themselves diligently between now and our next orientation meeting on April 7. The Gospel is an amazing thing, isn't it? When it begins to weave its spell on a heretofore impervious mind, you had better watch out. It is impossible to do justice to our meeting, for it was simply a succession of great conversations and amusing incidents and questions and answers and food and songs and prayers. I wish you could have been there, I really do.
And how are Becky and I doing? I am feeling splendidly for an old man. (I think I'm the oldest in the group.) I am concerned, however, about Becky. She held up well during the meeting despite having much of the weight of the work riding on her capable shoulders. That will gradually change as more and more of the team members step into leadership roles. When you see her blow her nose and blood mixes with her mucus it makes you realize just how huge an effect the Avastin has been having on her body. I am relieved that she is agreeing to allow me to do certain things for her that she would otherwise insist on doing herself -- such as driving Nigusse to DC to get his Israeli visa. I know this sounds paternalistic, but Becky is as active as ever, and I am in charge of making sure that she slows down so that she can accomplish her primary goals of writing. Becky is a woman in whom the years of life have blossomed into something beautiful -- honest, sincere, courageous, caring, always seeking the best in life and giving the best. I don't know why I should be telling you all of this other than the fact that it is important that we pursue the worthwhile life that Christ demands of us. Having tasted the stale cup of academia, I am determined to live out the rest of my days enjoying the rich practice of oneness in Christ that comes to those who consider serving others a priority in life. The last 6 or 7 years have been critically important in our lives, and I think we've really succeeded in enjoying spiritual tranquility without sacrificing our enthusiasm and passion. Can there be any greater joy in life that to work with people whose dedication should inspire in us the spirit of sacrifice? It never ceases to amaze me that God should make His appeal through people like me. He relies on us. We -- you and me! -- are given the privilege of telling other sinners about the Savior.
In our day missions is infrequent, clergy-dominated, and expensive -- an exceedingly foolish way of going about fulfilling the Great Commission if you ask me. It is MY responsibility to work and speak for Jesus. And it is yours. If we really want to reach the world for Christ we must all become informal missionaries. This is how the kingdom expands. This is how the Gospel spreads. In a word, this is what our meeting yesterday was all about. However inadequate we may feel, we can all do out part. How can we do otherwise if, like Paul, we believe that there is but one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus?
Saturday, March 3
7:54 AM Yes, there are such things as international food etiquette rules. In India, Nigusse and Joel are eating with their fingers. In Korea, you receive a plate of food with both hands. And in Ethiopia? Come to our orientation today and find out. We're going to undermine a lot of faulty presuppositions, one of which is the good-old American custom of being picky and choosy at the table. Our Ethiopian hosts work long and hard to prepare their simple fare over a wood fire. For us to refuse to eat what we are served is not only disrespectful but a poor witness. For the sake of love, we will be asking our team members -- all of them -- to lay aside their personal tastes and preferences. Eat and drink whatever is offered, and thereby emulate the unity and humility that marked the apostle Paul (see his "principle of adaptability" in 1 Cor. 9:19-23). Ministry without love is fruitless. But show love, and the rest falls into place. People are drawn in, as to a vortex. So yes, we will follow food etiquette rules. What a magnificent gesture this exercise is in community living!
Below: The women of Burji preparing a meal for our team. What precious fellow-laborers in the kingdom!
7:22 AM Newsflash, America! It's not about the economy!
America has always been used to abundance, and the result is a society of extravagance and waste. The rest of the world deals with scarcity by preserving rather than wasting. "American exceptionalism" requires us to value "more" and "better," but such talk is mere hyperventilation. No one really wants to give up their entitlements or their retirement benefits. America is in a mess, but it isn't one that can be solved by a college education or a government bailout. WE ARE A NATION OF BLOATED CONSUMERS. That goes for evangelicals too.
A missionary I heard recently said, "We have a glut of training and education in our seminaries. Is it really worth the cost? Shouldn't our vast knowledge be used to train pastors in Africa or Asia?" If you want to believe that America is still a superpower, go ahead. As for me, I think it's time we bypassed all the partisan nonsense we call politics and honestly address the materialistic environment we are living in, and how Christians must adapt. I truly think that we, as the evangelical church in America, do not have the resolve to overcome our own self-interests. Paul calls us to equity (2 Cor. 8:13). In a flat world, where everybody is hyper-connected, achieving this equity between churches ought to be more possible than ever. It's high time we jettison gerrymandering -- and not just in the political arena. My prayer is that we may encounter the fresh wind of God's Spirit that launched the infant church and that is ready and willing to work through us today if we would surrender the American Dream and make global evangelization a priority again. The only Christianity that will be an effective power for change in the twenty-first century is a Christianity that is moved by the sheer need of men and women, many of them without God and without hope in the world. How can we withhold from them the life-giving word?
We frankly do not believe in the power of the Holy Spirit or in the outward thrust of the Gospel. Christ called His earliest followers to the regions beyond. What about us? Christians in China and Ethiopia know exactly what persecution and privation look like, yet they venture out with the Gospel and risk. Christians in America who have the benefit of a good education should use that education to help "the least of these." Christians who enjoy wealth and prosperity should take material needs very seriously as a part of their Christian commitment. Service and sacrifice -- these are the vital ingredients in all great leadership. We could take this much further. I have tried to do so in The Jesus Paradigm. If we are to turn the tide of apathy in our generation, it will not happen without a fresh moving of the Spirit of God and a costly following of a crucified Savior. This is what the early Christians experienced. Why should it not happen to us?
Friday, March 2
3:55 PM Got time for a brief update? Today we drove to South Boston to get a CBC for Becky. We just got the results. Her counts are dropping (white cells, platelets). Good thing she wasn't scheduled for chemo next Monday, as they would have had to cancel it (her counts are too low). Right now it's a week by week proposition for us. Thankfully Becky's energy has been good today. At one point she cried out, "It's Oshe, it's Oshe!" She was referring, of course, to the fact that Oshe was Skyping us from Burji. Here's Becky showing him one of the Kidz Kards with Scripture verses.
He could read and translate it into English without a hitch. Awesome. Speaking of Burji, during tomorrow's orientation I have the joy of coordinating the prayer time as well as giving the overview of life in Ethiopia (history, geography, economy, demographics, clock and calendar, religion, health, and other important issues). While Googling for some information I ran across a very interesting website called If It Were My Home. If Ethiopia were your home instead of the United States, you would:
All of this will make for some very interesting discussion tomorrow I'm sure. Right now Becky is resting. She's told me she's going to prepare one of my favorite suppers tonight: Sloppy Joes. Can't hardly wait. Life is good. Family. Fun. Food. Fellowship. Kingdom work. Peace.
Thanks for listening,
10:38 AM We've already had two evangelists adopted. Praise the Lord!
10:32 AM Don't forget to pray for our stalwart missionaries to India. Today they are traveling down country to southern West Bengal to visit some 20 different churches.
10:32 AM I'm still planning on attending the ETS Southwest regional meeting at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth next weekend. The focus will be on biblical theology. Hope to see some of you there.
9:40 AM Do you have a love for missions? Perhaps God has placed Ethiopia on your heart? If so, would you consider adopting an evangelist and his family for prayer? Here's the scoop. As Becky writes:
Hoping to hear from you soon!
9:11 AM The T & T Clark blog is highlighting Michael Allen's new book, Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics: An Introduction and Reader. Readers in the U.S. can purchase a copy in May 2012.
It is definitely on my wish list. Barth was a giant in the history of theology. I admire him most for his writing of the Barmen Declaration, which rejected the Nazi Party and its Führer. Barth, a leader in the Confessing Church in Germany, was dismissed from his professorship at the University of Bonn for refusing to swear an oath to Hitler. Incidentally, you might not know that he was also a huge American Civil War buff and could not wait to visit Gettysburg when he lectured in the U.S. in 1962.
Barth was already deceased by the time I matriculated at Basel, but I did have the opportunity to study under his son Markus, whose 2-volume commentary on Ephesians remains unexcelled.
7:54 AM "We make our plans, but God has the last word" (Prov. 16:1). Good reminder with orientation coming up tomorrow.
7:50 AM Good post here about the style of Mark's Gospel. It's a topic I often discuss in my classes. As you ponder that question, ask yourself whether the answer might be found in the Papias-citation of EH 3.39. Papias' testimony reveals that the "Elder" (John) was emphatic that Mark's record of Peter's memories was accurate but not "in order" (taxei), nor was it a literary composition (syntaxis). Instead, it was a collection of short stories and personal reminiscences (chreiai) about the Lord. Amazing explanation, isn't it? Against this backdrop, the peculiar diction of Mark finds a ready explanation. It is the contrast between a colloquial record of Peter's discourses on the one hand and the standard literary style of both Matthew and Luke on the other. In other words, Mark is simply a verbatim transcript of Peter's speeches. Once again, the patristic evidence can be of great value in helping us to understand the circumstances surrounding the composition of Mark. We neglect it to our own disadvantage.
The fathers were unanimous that our earliest Gospel was Matthew's. Markan priority and the statements of the church fathers are incompatible. You must choose one or the other. Tertium non datur.
7:40 AM Jesus was politically non-aligned. Perhaps He is an example for us today?
7:33 AM If you're traveling to the SBL Southeast meeting in Atlanta this weekend be sure to stop by the Energion Publications booth and check out their latest books, including Robert Cornwall's Faith in the Public Square.
Thursday, March 1
9:04 PM I'm about half way through my book The Great Escape by Paul Brickhill. Seems I'm not the only history fan who loves escape stories from Germany. The Telegraph once published a story about several historians who've built a model of "Harry," the tunnel used by Roger Bushell and his airmen colleagues in March of 1944. Check it out here. The photos are phenomenal. What resourcefulness! What inspiration!
8:53 PM Becky Lynn and I just enjoyed another thrilling episode of Hawaii 5-0, filmed (in this case) on the Windward side of Oahu at a beach calked Lanikai. Oh, the fashions! And then there's the scenery. One could see the Mokulua Islands and Mount Olomana in the background, along with Rabbit Island and the Mokapuu peninsula. To tell the truth, I could scarcely follow the plot line because my mind was focused on the huge waves breaking on the reef.
The reef at Kailua/Lanikai did not break very often, but when it did we couldn't wait to paddle out and grab some good rides. The paddle was about a mile but worth the effort. Even if you've never touched a surfboard you can appreciate the wonder of the sport. Surfing is in my blood. Always will be. Even though the only surfing I do today is on my sofa.
6:51 PM Nobody drifts into the kingdom. You have to ask, seek, and knock before you can enter.
2:55 PM Jonathan Robie asks the question of the ages: Why not start with modern Greek when we teach Koine Greek? Indeed, why not? I'll even up the ante. Why not have Greeks teach Greek? I wouldn't learn German from a non-native speaker. Why should anyone want to take Greek from me?
So, from now on: Only Greeks teaching Koine Greek!
2:39 PM Don't take yourself too seriously. Nobody else does.
1:58 PM Here's a shout out and a huge "thank you" to my two assistants at the seminary, both bloggers of course (see Alien in This Land and Jesus + Nothing = Everything). I've been working them pretty hard this semester, and I do want them to know that their labor is greatly appreciated.
1:47 PM It is only March 1 and the high today will be 80 degrees. Which means it's time for yard work and prepping the garden. I simply can't believe I will have to mow this weekend. And take a look at B's garden.
Pretty unsightly, don't you think? I plan to get started on clearing out one of these beds for Becky today. Got to take advantage of this gorgeous weather.
So, how's your garden doing?
12:16 PM Becky has been as busy as a bee getting us ready for our first Ethiopia team orientation this Saturday from 10:00 to 4:00. There are many particular matters that need to be thoroughly understood before anyone can go to Ethiopia with us. We are not trying to do our own thing. We are not trying to implement "our strategy." We are trying to do Jesus' thing, and do it together. That's why orientation is so important. If you avoid fellowship in the Word and in prayer, you will soon lose your direction and your joy. We are to yield all of our plans to Him. We are called to serve Jesus, but the shape of our service will be varied. We are not drones in a beehive but worker bees. We can work for Jesus in so many different ways. There is plenty of work to be done, but it cannot be done without prayerful and careful preparation. Jesus asks us to please Him. He requires us to do missions His way. How can we know His way without spending time in the Scriptures?
Our orientations are required, not optional. It is through these gatherings that the Spirit guides us, teaches us, encourages us, and strengthens us. And it is to be emphasized: We do not work as mavericks. Our work is done side by side with the Ethiopian church. Unlike so many missionary organizations, our goal is to follow the pattern of the book of Acts by working church to church (e.g., the churches in Macedonia helped the churches in Judea). That is a thumbnail sketch of what kingdom living is all about. The Body of Christ must support each other. I cannot go to Ethiopia and make believe that a church doesn't already exist there. I am utterly opposed to any method of church planting and evangelism that refuses to cooperate with existing like-minded churches in other nations. You cannot sit on the fence regarding this matter. You have to decide. Relentlessly yet lovingly, the Scriptures call us back to the book of Acts as the model of churches willingly cooperating with each other. That is what Jesus set us to do. May He continually challenge His Body not only to do missions but to do missions His way.
11:12 AM Just posted: My Academic Journey: Confessions of a Limping Greek Teacher.
8:26 AM Odds and ends ...
1) The Church Relevance website has listed 2012's Top Churches to Watch in America. The whole article is worth pondering. I suppose if you enjoy reading about the techniques behind the "successes" of other churches, lists such as this one can be useful.
2) Good advice about writing from Alvin Reid:
Another great essay from Alvin's website.
3) William Jessup University announces an opening in Old Testament.
8:16 AM Michael Bird reports on his progress while writing a new book on the origins of the Gospels. Read Jesus, Eyewitnesses, and Memory. At this point it is difficult to know whether he will be dealing with the writings of the church fathers, but there is nothing is his brief post to suggest that he will. I do hope he does. Meanwhile, there are plenty of reasons why the fathers' writings should not be overlooked. If you would like to get up to speed on their contribution to the question, I have published a short volume that retranslates their most important quotes about the Gospels from the original Greek and Latin (see my Why Four Gospels?). With regard to the matter of eyewitness primitivity and memory, I have argued frequently here that Matthew's Gospel as well as John's are eyewitness products, and that Luke and Mark were commissioned by apostles (Paul and Peter respectively) to produce their versions of the life of Christ. A helpful summary may be found in my essay "The Historical Origins of the Gospels" (Faith & Mission 18  21-47). The basic thesis of all of my work in the Gospels is that the internal evidence alone is not adequate to explain their origins, and that the rejection of the fathers' statements has led to confusion in New Testament scholarship – a view not dissimilar to that held by William Farmer, formerly of Southern Methodist University. At any rate, Mike Bird is an excellent scholar and writer. I look forward to reading his work on the Gospels with eager anticipation.
8:02 AM Heartiest congratulations to Dom Henry Wansbrough. The former Chairman of the Oxford University Theology Faculty has been appointed to the Alexander Jones Professor of Biblical Studies chair at Liverpool Hope University.
He deserves that honor for many reasons, but I remember him mostly for his convening the Second Ampleforth Conference on the Gospels in April, 1983. It was in this major conference that G. D. Kilpatrick observed that modern textual criticism of the Gospels relied almost exclusively on the Two-Document Hypothesis. Once again we see clearly the interplay between textual criticism and source criticism. I sometimes tell my students that should the Two-Document Hypothesis ever be falsified, it would necessitate the rewriting a good number of commentaries on the Gospels, as most of them presuppose the priority of the Gospel of Mark. I would argue that Kilpatrick was absolutely correct in his observation, but the reality is that all of us must proceed on the basis of some sort of source theory whenever we practice textual criticism. Unfortunately, many young scholars are taught to practice Gospel criticism in a sort of circular fashion: they are required to use a critical text of the Gospels that presupposes the priority of the composition of Mark, and then they are asked to form their own impressions of the history of the text, which by now has all the marks of harmonization. Now, I am not against our students using the critical text. It is just that we must be careful to remind them no text of the Gospels is an unbiased text for the simple reason that no modern scholar can remain "neutral" with regard to the synoptic problem.
In any case, mega kudos to professor Wansbrough, whose inaugural lecture "Was Jesus a Pharisee?" sounds very interesting indeed.