December 2012 Blog Archives
Friday, December 28
12:14 PM A thousand thanks to mom and dad for sending us this CD of the Vocal Majority's Christmas hits. We are enjoying it immensely. Amasagenalo!
12:05 PM Calling all church planters! Grady Bauer would like to have a word with you. He asks, Have you considered planting a church in these cities?
In Grady's words:
Personally, I think the bottom line is that God doesn't need our church plants any more than He needs our money. He's looking for people who will stop chasing their own ambitions and plans. We're frightened to go where Satan manifests his reign because in so many ways we're vulnerable to him. Christ is boldly demanding that we check our motivation for Christian service. If it's a desire for adventure or ego-gratification, then it's unacceptable to Him. That's why this essay is so important. It's a reminder that the Jesus-style is a sacrificial servant-style. Our first reaction, I suppose, should be to ask ourselves, "Are there any Bible-believing churches in this city with whom we could partner?" Our "church plants" too often betray our callous indifference to what God is already doing in a region or a city. Our dependency on self is producing assemblies and missions that are oftentimes redundant. Grady puts it so beautifully:
I say amen. The way up, as always, is down. Who needs the entertainment model anyway? Who needs a church plant to steal sheep away from other flocks? Who needs it?
9:59 AM If you play a brass instrument and are looking for a summer trip to make in 2013, you might consider Eurobrass. I played on this evangelistic music team in 1978 when I spent three months in West Germany. Today the tour lasts only three weeks, but what a time that will be. Here we are on the Baltic playing a piece by Bach.
I had taught myself just enough German to at least give my testimony in public. It was an unforgettable summer.
9:45 AM Here's an interesting essay over at CNN that caught my eye: 8 travel resolutions for 2013. The best part?
That's excellent advice. Of course, I realize that globalization had produced a measure of global homogeneity, and that English is spoken in many countries you're likely to visit. Even there, however, you'll find that your efforts to speak the language are appreciated and (sometimes) rewarded.
I also try to go along with cultural expectations when I'm traveling. I recall once visiting a numismatic shop in the Arab Quarter of Jerusalem, looking for a denarius of Tiberius. Yet in that culture it's all about connecting. About 40 minutes later -- a cup of thick Turkish coffee, graciously handed to me by the shop's proprietor, takes about that long to sip -- we finally got down to business. (I was successful.) Don't think that just because globalization is taking place that everyone is going to look and speak like an American. Globalization reigns, but a nod to the local culture while you're traveling abroad is sure to make your trip more enjoyable if not also more successful.
8:02 AM Yesterday my Ed. D. student Thomas Hudgins posted some really great thoughts about education based on the life of the great A. T. Robertson of Southern Seminary (Three Questions about Teaching). You should read it -- it's a very stimulating post.
You can't light the fire of learning in someone else if it doesn't shine brightly in you to begin with.
I can teach anyone how to lecture about Greek, but I can't teach a person a passion for the language. Educators talk about PQ -- passion quotient. I'm so grateful I had teachers in my life with a high PQ. I think back to my fifth grade teacher at Kainalu Elementary School who introduced me to Spanish, or my band teacher at Kailua High School who told everyone how gifted a trumpet player I was, or that seminary professor at Talbot whose love for morphology triggered in me a lifelong passion for linguistics. The inspiration for great accomplishments in life is always rooted in passion and never in knowledge alone. Whenever students hear me say, "Do what you love," I'm simply trying to remind them to stretch beyond the utilitarian in the pursuit of meaning and purpose in life. Nobody works harder at Greek than a passionate learner. I fear we're losing that today in our cyber-focused world. Young people today have a zillion terabytes of information at their fingertips but not more than a handful of bytes of passion for learning. Intelligence counts. But passion matters more. In short, A. T. Robertson's legacy is that he was a passionate self-educator. He, in turn, motivated a new generation of students to love learning by great teaching.
It's wonderful cycle, when you think about it.
Thursday, December 27
8:23 PM I've done an awful lot of Civil War reenacting in my lifetime. Tons of it. From small events to huge ones including 30,000 reenactors. We try to emulate for the general public the hardships, food, mannerisms, even smells of a nineteenth century Civil War encampment. Personal authenticity is a must. As a lifelong history geek, I've developed a fondness for good books about the war, and I've often mentioned one of them on this blog -- Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels. This book I began to re-read (again) last night and I simply can't put it down. It's a real jewel about a very bleak time in the American past. The human side of the war -- that's perhaps the most fascinating thing of it all. So many questions come to mind:
Without giving my answers too much thought, I'd say 1) the origin of the rebel yell, 2) the Battle of Antietam/Sharpsburg (since it allowed Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation), and 3) Confederate Gen. Lo Armistead.
But enough of my gabbing. Quit reading this blog and order a copy now!
8:14 PM Becky and I recently met with an on-fire seminarian who reminded me of something I had written years ago (The Future of Southern Baptist Missions):
As "sharp as a Swiss Army Knife" -- that's her exactly. Friends, the Great Commission is not great until it starts happening in our own lives. Praise God for every Christian who feels the call to go into "fulltime Christian service." And that should include all of us.
6:28 PM The dermatologist, convinced that Becky's growth was cancerous, removed it and sent it out to be biopsied. He thinks it's squamous cell carcinoma, which Becky has had before, but we don't know for sure. We'll get the results in a week. We enjoyed a wonderful early supper at one of our favorite restaurants and just checked in at Maple Ridge to see the progress there. Not to mention that we also bought Nigusse some protein bars for his Israel trip -- for those all-day outings to Dan or Beersheba or Capernaum or wherever.
All in all, a wonderful day.
I know I've mentioned this many times before, but Becky and I are a partnership in life. Over our meal today, Bec shared with me a vision that God has been impressing upon her for us to get involved in a new ministry emphasis in the new year. Immediately I sensed in my spirit that this was of Him and gladly affirmed this new direction. Just be forewarned, we'll have a lot to share with you about all this in the comings days and weeks. It is REALLY exciting.
So there you have it. Going to the doctor, sharing our heart over dinner, dreaming about the future, savoring the presence of the Lord, preparing Nigusse for the trip of a lifetime, answering your emails, praying.
I love her so much.
This is my life. It is absolutely who I want to be. Despite the fact that God doesn't need us, He has made it His job of sharing His presence -- and His work -- with us. I feel that this next year is going to be the most challenging, difficult, satisfying, and rewarding one we've even known.
But there's no backing down now.
11:24 AM Just out of the oven.
I wonder who snitched a piece?
10:14 AM A few odds and ends before I go outdoors and perform some chores:
1) My apologies for the typos you find here in my blog. I just corrected two of them! I have many weaknesses, and one of them is writing, speaking, and blogging too fast. Believe me, I'm aware of the problem and am working hard to correct it. Thanks for your patience.
2) This afternoon Becky has an appointment down in Durham with a skin specialist to check out a spot growing on her forehead. We don't think it's cancerous (though Becky has had numerous cancers removed from her skin before), but we still want a dermatologist to look at it.
3) Becky's mom and dad were excited that they got snow in Dallas on Christmas Day. And here we were, worried sick that they might fall in the snow or ice.
4) After our "hot date" to Durham, I plan to take Becky out for dinner. Do you know how special that is to me?
5) Finally, Bec's fresh cinnamon rolls are almost done. Can you smell them?
9:30 AM I'm in a contemplative mood this morning, so let me ask you a question:
I like to believe that one of the blessings of being an educator is that few professions afford the opportunity to utilize apparently unrelated material like the teaching profession. The avocations, far from interfering with one's vocation, actually facilitate it. I like to travel, to blog, to study, to farm, to say nothing of other needful recreations. None of these activities is wholly unrelated to my professional work, and each is indeed an outgrowth of it.
It is exciting, for example, to publish books, even though I've never been in a school where "publish or perish" has applied. It's always helpful to have a reserve laid aside for the inevitable rainy day. As for farming, I suppose we break even, but what a captive audience a group of bovines makes when one wants to expostulate about something really profound. I am really uplifted by the experience of lecturing in foreign countries, including the wilds of Ethiopia and the state of the art classrooms in South Korea. The response of the audiences, from Yerevan to Odessa, confirms my faith in the value of education. I have watched the faces of thousands of students light up when they finally "get it" during my Greek lectures. I am glad enough, at the age of 60, to still be going strong, although there are more subtle temptations at 60 in this calling to go beyond one's physical strength than when one is in his or her thirties. I have often spoken in yesterday's faith that everything will come back tomorrow, and I have no greater joy than to see my students assume the mantle of teaching themselves.
Looking back over 36 years in the classroom, I find that my experience is not all that unusual. Like so many who came before me, I am never happier than when I am standing in front of a blackboard before an audience of eager students armed with a textbook and a good piece of chalk.
It all starts up again next week Wednesday at 8:30 am, when (so der Herr will) I will teach Greek 1 during J-term. Can't wait.
8:26 AM Oh, the rewards of good old-fashioned hard work.
8:18 AM Remember Leslie Nielsen's Naked Gun 2 1/2? It's the press conference scene, and the nation's top energy expert, Dr. Meinheimer, is explaining to a group of reporters the intricacies of his policy recommendations to the president. The audience is dead asleep.
Early in my teaching career, a seasoned professor took me aside and said, "Dave, there's no such thing as a boring teacher. If he's boring, he's not a teacher."
Knowledgeable superstars are a dime a dozen. But give me a man (or a woman) who is passionate about their subject!
7:46 AM The water pulsed, bubbling up from a thousand springs. Tropical fruit hung from the trees in abundance. In almost every way imaginable, southern India reminded me of the Islands where I grew up. It is a tropical paradise, with an impressive amount of rain each year. I had come to Kerala to help dedicate a new Bible college. This is the most churched part of the Indian Subcontinent. It has never fully capitulated to Hinduism. Northern India is the exact opposite. And for some strange reason, God has put that region of the world on my heart. Becky and I had planned to take a trip there this month before her hospitalizations. But we haven't lost interest in God's church there.
To help you see what the Gospel is doing in northeast India, permit me to link to a new site called Serving with Peniel. Your web host is none other than my former student, Moncy Mammen. Previously we sent Nigusse to visit with Moncy and his parents in India, and they have become firm friends. Moncy, along with his mother and father, are people with a deep passion for the Gospel. They fervently love the people of Bengal. I enjoyed seeing this picture of the baptism that took place there recently.
It makes me want to thank God for national missionaries who are faithful servants of the most High God. Year after year I speak in churches of all denominations. My message is the same: God is calling His people to respond to Jesus' command to preach and teach the Gospel to all lands. I remind them that the cost to support a dozen national missionaries for several years is but a fraction of the cost to keep one traditional Western missionary oversees for one year. How I praise God for opening my eyes to see the need for doing missions cooperatively. We live in a nation that is saturated with Christians, churches, Bibles, and the Gospel. Yet the very name of the Savior is still unknown to millions of lost souls, many of whom live in the northeastern corner of India. To choose deliberately to ignore the plight of these people is either illness or insanity.
As I type these words I am preparing to make 4 mission trips in 2013 to Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia. With tears in my eyes, I tell you that there is no joy like ministering alongside our persecuted brethren in other countries. The question that faces the church in America is this: Who will go? Will I? Will you? I'm not asking you if you gave something to missions this year. If we reduce missions to dollars and cents we will miss the real message of the Great Commission. The true test of discipleship is not what we give but how we live. Where in our busy lives is authentic love for the lost? If you are really a follower of Christ, you will not have peace in your heart until the whole world has heard of His love. I still don't understand the full impact of all of this in my own life. I'm still trying to process what it means to follow Jesus. What explanation or rationale can I give for all those wasted years of apathy and indifference? The only true answer is none.
Lord willing, I hope to see the work in India firsthand, maybe this year. But even if I don't, I'll continue to present to anyone who will listen the burden of Christ's heart for the world. I urge you to check out Moncy's site and to pray for the work in India. Even more, I urge you to ask the Lord Jesus to show you how you can get personally involved in missions in 2013. You'll never know unless you ask.
Wednesday, December 26
5:48 PM As we anticipate yet another conference on campus, my mind wistfully returns to our 2000 conference featuring New Testament professors from the world over. Left to right: Lanier, Osborne, Elliott, Allen, Silva, Robinson, Kistemaker, Holmes, Blomberg, Farmer, Black, Epp, Guthrie, Bock, McKnight, Beck, and Cowen.
In the center and bowing before the assembled wisdom of the ages: President Paige Patterson.
5:35 PM Had lots of fun with this revised Christian "glossary":
My addition: Lead Pastor used to be Senior Pastor used to be Pastor used to be Elder used to be Brother used to be "John." Churlish, ain't I?
5:30 PM Who said this?
5:23 PM Praying for my brothers and sisters who have been killed recently in Nigeria.
3:50 PM A belated Merry Christmas to all. I've been working feverishly on the new Greek Portal along with Thomas Hudgins and Jacob Cerone. Launch date is still January 1, 2013. Thanks, guys, for your help today.
Meanwhile, I see the hand-wringing has begun over the release of a movie about the death of Osama bin Laden. Acting CIA Director Michael Morrell, in a statement to employees, points to several significant inaccuracies in the film.
I have no doubt that what the director says is true. I worry when we, the public, confuse Hollywood with reality. It's critical that we see actors as actors, not as role models. If you want to know why I disliked the movie The Great Escape so much, for example, just read the book. The movie claims to be historically accurate down to the smallest detail, yet it proceeds to inject poisonous untruths into the plot. No American participated in the escape, and there were no motorcycle scenes in the original escape (sorry, Steve McQueen).
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Viewers should tell the producers of these movies: Look, we don't need your fabrications or embellishments. Truth is exciting enough. As I was reading the words of the acting CIA Director, these words struck me:
Hmm, I thought, that's not a good sign when you create a superstar or two out of a team of players. Yet you'll only need a few hours of perusing some church websites to see that this is exactly what we do with our "ecclesiastical superstars." Welcome to Hollywood. I am all for acknowledging our spiritual leaders, but as the apostle Paul once said, "A body is not a single organ, but many." If the pastor is a superstar, then the body is an audience, not fellow actors. It struck me that the CIA Director's words are for the church every bit as much as they are for the movie-going public. Church is a team effort. In fact, if you look closely, every one of your pastor's gifts is probably matched by someone else in your church. Folks, let's be careful to acknowledge the value of every member. Nothing could be more important. I confidently predict that if we show our appreciation to the least "up-front" among us, the leadership will not suffer.
Finally, here's an early papyrus manuscript that Thomas gave me today as a Christmas present. It was discovered in "Alexandria," I believe he said. Can you guess which New Testament passage this is?
Whatever its "real" date and provenance, I am indeed grateful for this magnificent treasure. Dan Wallace, eat your heart out.
Sunday, December 23
7:06 PM Tonight I'm reading Swete's Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek -- online. We have a link to this work at our new Greek Portal, which went live this evening for a couple of hours so that a few of us could preview it. I really enjoyed perusing it. To be honest, I don't think it will ever be "ready" for launch. But I am a big believer in meeting deadlines (even self-imposed ones), so live it will go January 1, 2013.
I think you're going like it.
2:31 PM Our church pianist always does a fantastic job. I absolutely love her style. She and I play a lot alike. So I'm always on the lookout for good You Tubes of piano pieces to tell her about. Today I mentioned to her an older piece by Christopher Cross called "Sailing." It contains one of the best piano solos I've ever heard. The simpler the better. The keyboardist isn't bad either. See if don't agree. Click here to see the embedded You Tube.
2:20 PM For some reason, our conversation over supper turned to regional dialects of English. When I first arrived in California from Hawaii, people didn't know what I was saying. Prior to that, I never thought much about my Hawaiian/Pidgin accent. Living in California for 27 years, I think my accent flattened, though I still tend to shuffle medial consonants and syllables. Becky grew up speaking a beautiful Texas drawl, and occasionally it resurfaces, especially during trips to Dallas. I think that's pretty neat. Then there's Nigusse. He speaks several languages/dialects, including Amharinya, Kambattinya, and Alabinya, not to mention pretty good "Amerikinya." (Both he and I are still working on "English" as a second language.)
I sometimes tell my students that language is the words, while dialect is the music. I love the music of different accents. I can pass for a Prussian when speaking to a German flight attendant aboard Lufthansa, but I'd never pass muster aboard Air France. I can fake the Virginia brogue when I need to. I suppose with the homogenizing effect of You Tube, TV, and radio, some American dialects will eventually disappear. I'd hate to see that happen.
Sorry to bore you with this information, but the topic did make for a delightful conversation around the dinner table. To tell da trut, bumby I like fo speak DaKine wid my students at da semitary, but den again, I not lookin' fo pilikia.
8:34 AM Never in my life did I think I would be saying this, but I think there is too much Greek instruction going on these days. This is the day of the "10 Easy Steps" fad -- 10 easy steps to becoming a famous author, a world-class pianist, a successful businessman, a great parent. Anything you wish. All you have to do is follow a few simple instructions, and your money is refunded within 40 days if you aren't completely satisfied.
Of course, this attitude has spilled over into Greek pedagogy. Pilgrim no longer has to plod his way to the Celestial City. Christian sails through the rough spots on a cushion of ease. (Did I mention the stops along the way at Vanity Fair?) I hate to tell you this, but easy believism doesn't work -- whether in the church or in the classroom. There must be total commitment. There is no Easy Street to language acquisition for lazy students. The highest casualty rate is always among the slaves of sloth.
This is no day for pastors to take the easy way out. The temptation to tolerate timidity is terrific. A new year is almost upon us. He has helped us thus far. Will He not help us finish our course with joy (Acts 20:24)? There is a new year to be greeted -- and, for some of you, a new chapter to be written in the tale called "Mastering New Testament Greek." I'm here to help. But the decision must be yours. Make it today, Pilgrim. Our Lord will honor it, and the church will be strengthened as a result.
Saturday, December 22
7:28 PM New website: Speak Koine Greek. Bare bones but promising.
7:14 PM Eighty-seven. Count 'em. That's how many cedar posts needed repairing on the farm. And who better to perform this much-needed task than our very own Nigusse?
Today, aided by his ever-present assistant, Nigu finished the last post, thus marking a milestone in his sojourn in these United States.
I thought this accomplishment needed to be duly recognized, so tonight at the supper table Nigusse received his first official award since his arrival at Bradford Hall.
This soon-to-be framed certificate acknowledges Nigusse's expertise in CPR (Certified Posthole Repair). Congratulations, Nigusse, We're very proud of you.
Supper, however was a totally different story. Call it an unmitigated disaster, and you would not be too far off base. With Becky's permission, let me share with you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The day laborers spent the afternoon anticipating Becky's supper menu, which was to consist of homemade catfish gumbo. After all, we "like it hot."
However, it seems that Becky inadvertently added too much of a certain ingredient that made the food unpalatably hot, even for an Ethiopian. The offending ingredient is shown below.
Not to worry, however. The wizened patriarch of the household stepped up to the plate and took dominion over the kitchen, and eventually the family supped on these delicious pancakes.
The leftover gumbo? Not even the dogs could eat the scraps, so dangerous were they.
So how did your day go?
5:57 PM May we have a round of applause for Mrs. Fandisha, who gave birth a few hours ago to a beautiful baby.
Mother and child both doing well.
God is good to us.
11:36 AM When I was a mere 12 years old, our family flew from Hawaii to the Mainland and began a 3-month road trip across the U.S. by Greyhound Bus. We traveled from Los Angeles to Seattle to New York. I will never forget that experience. Because that summer I fell in love for the first time.
The other day I asked Becky, "Honey, when you get better, where is the one place in the world you would love to go?" After all, we've been traveling together ever since we made that first trip from Dallas to Honolulu on our honeymoon.
It's been an amazing 36 years together. What next? Her answer both surprised and excited me. That's why I'm looking into this. As for me, I have a dream of taking Becky back to the land of my birth. During all these years of marriage, I have longed to do one thing with her: Watch the sunset over the Waianae Range while dancing to Hawaiian music at Waikiki's Royal Hawaiian Hotel.
Will we ever make these trips together? Only God knows. But I know one thing: This is not the end of our married life together. It's only the beginning. Even if we never end up going anywhere again, you have to keep on living, keep on loving, keep on hoping, and keep on dreaming.
I love that woman. I recall on one of our many trips to Ethiopia that we were walking down the road in some remote village when I grabbed her hand. "We can't do that here!" she said. "It isn't proper!" "You're right, honey," I replied. "I've never seen any lovers holding hands in rural Ethiopia." Becky, vindicated, grinned from ear to ear, while I pecked her on the cheek.
Oh the joys of traveling together!
10:41 AM LXX students, please take note. I have ordered a copy of this new book for our seminary library as well as a copy for my personal library. The contents are fabulous:
Our course will begin Wednesday, January 23, at 12:30. If you haven't registered for this team-taught class (Bob Cole and yours truly), it's not too late.
9:54 AM Driving through Charlotte County, VA, one stares at nothing but cattle. The county's main boast is that it has no traffic lights. (It's true.) As someone who lived in Southern California for 27 years, I have come to love the tranquility of the countryside. Southside Virginia never ceases to surprise me. Head northeast a ways out of the town of Halifax and soon you encounter signs like this one:
I've always admired the Amish, but I never expected to see them in my backyard. A new movement is afoot: Leave the traditional lands for regions beyond. If the original generation could make it in Lancaster County, PA, why can't the new generation make it in southern Virginia? I'm not going to criticize them. Their life is complicated. They have to maintain their ancient traditions and get along with the outside world. This may seem strange to our democratic, post-Enlightenment minds, but it is a noble goal. The Amish are clearly skeptical about having too much of this world's goods. Live simply. Love the land.
So much of my own personal pilgrimage has been about reconnecting to the land. But my current journey is teaching me something much deeper. Land is not the destination. Being an agrarian does not guarantee that one will live more simply or selflessly. I have to find another route back to God. I must look beyond tradition. I must turn, instead, to where the prophets point me. I must return to the one source of salvation that I would have least imagined: an infant in a feeding trough.
That's what I love Him. I have no need for anyone to decipher for me God's nature, no matter how cryptic. In the baby of Bethlehem it has become plain.
7:42 AM Last night, over a delicious venison supper, Becky and I were regaling Nigusse with stories about our time in Israel when we too were students at Jerusalem University College. One day we took an excursion to the nearby city of Hebron which, as I recall, was being carefully guarded by the IDF and lots of razor wire. A bit intimidating, you might say. We sauntered toward the center of town (near Abraham's Tomb) and stopped at one of those roadside pottery stands for which the city is justly famous. We watched with amazement as the potter spun his wheel and quickly fashioned what to us appeared to be a beautiful clay pot. Suddenly, he smashed the pot with his hands in a fit of disgust. We watched in horror. With a wink and a smile, the potter looked up at us from his workbench and said, "Does the clay say to the potter, 'What are you doing?'". We smiled back, recognizing the allusion to Isa. 45:9. Later, when I was working on the ISV, I would translate Rom. 9:21 as "A potter has the right to do what he wants with his clay, doesn't he?"
He sure does.
One challenge for us as believers today is understanding the full implications of Christ's Lordship. It's the same struggle we read about in the Gospels. It must have been an impressive sight, that day beside the Sea of Galilee, when Jesus told the crowds that they would have to eat His flesh and drink His blood, that they had to face up to what real discipleship was all about. It's not surprising that the crowd began to thin out, until Jesus asked the Twelve, "Will you go away also?" It's the same today. We want His fish but not His flesh. I know I do. We want religion without obedience to His commission to go and sacrifice all that we have and all that we are. We want a political Messiah to defend our position on gun control but have no appetite for His real message and mission.
What's amazing to me is that Jesus did nothing to hold the people back. He let them go. Half-hearted disciples can be of no use to Him. I think, more than anything, I'm floored again by the reality of the demands that Jesus makes on me on a daily basis. Of course, He's always been like that, always talking about sacrifice and suffering and selflessness. And sometimes I actually feel like I'm measuring up. At that point He looks at me, smiles, and then crushes the clay with His fingers, shattering my self-righteousness.
That, Nigusse, is why traveling to Israel is so dangerous. Because if you're not careful, you just might see Jesus convicting you of your pride through the actions of a common potter.
Friday, December 21
8:16 PM Well, did you get it? Augustine's family name, that is. It's Aurelius, of course.
And the winner is:
John Nichols of Tennessee
The book will go out in the mail as soon as I get back to campus, John. Congratulations!
7:36 PM Newsflash! High surf conditions exist in Hawaii. Right now. Strong currents? So what. Danger of losing your board? That's life. Monster wipeouts? To be expected. Hang loose, brudda, and grab your board and paddle out.
Just do it.
Mahalo a nui loa,
7:18 PM Over at The Jesus Blog, Chris Keith announces that he is now accepting doctoral students at St. Mary's in the UK. Do check it out.
And while you're at it, take a look at this excellent site that lists UK New Testament lecturers. The idea of an American studying abroad is not as radical as it might seem. Since I started taking doctoral students myself, a number of people have asked me what I am looking for in a doctoral student. I've thought long and hard about that question, and the best answer I can come up with is a student who is, above all, teachable (as in the didaktikon of 1 Tim. 3:2). Without question, you'll receive an excellent education if you do your doctorate at SEBTS. But my evangelical theology tells me that we are never to put God in a box in any way, shape, or form. There is nothing to be lost, and perhaps much to be gained, by considering doing your doctorate in the UK.
Incidentally, Chris had graciously accepted our invitation to be one of the keynote speakers at our Pericope Adulterae Conference in April of 2014 at SEBTS. Chris has many publications to his credit, but perhaps none more important than The Pericope Adulterae, the Gospel of John, and the Literacy of Jesus. Thank you, Chris, for agreeing to be one of our speakers. I look forward to seeing you on campus.
4:30 PM Just ordered 100 copies of my book Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions? I want every doctoral student at SEBTS to have a free copy when we meet on January 24.
4:25 PM Looking ahead ... only 10 more days till we launch the new Greek Portal.
We hope you will find it useful.
1:06 PM Just sat down to read The History of the Jewish War by Flavius Josephus. Nice break from writing. Here's the opening:
12:52 PM Last week one of my well-published colleagues said he was probably going to be sending his next manuscript to Energion. He won't be sorry. Henry Neufeld is a great guy and an excellent publisher. He is discriminating, however, as well he should be. He's up front about that. Read his The Ideal Manuscript for Energion and you'll see what I mean.
12:43 PM This just in from a DBO reader:
I also liked this part:
12:34 PM New York's Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School announces an opening in New Testament and Christian Origins.
12:20 PM The haircut is now history. This picture is just for Nigusse's fiancée, Netsanet.
So what do you think, Chuchu? Thumbs up or thumbs down?
10:08 AM And now something to get us all in the Christmas spirit. As you know, brother Jason is busy working on his doctorate at Dallas Seminary. He posted this on his blog this morning:
Jason, I think your readers can do better than that. We know what it's like to be a doctoral student with tight finances. You can forget about purchasing the book I co-edited with David Dockery. I'll get it in the mail to you as soon as you send me your mailing address. As for the other books .... How about it, guys and gals? You probably don't need that book in your library anyway. I say, send it on to Jason, not for sale, but gratis, and let's share the luv.
9:45 AM Here's a great read: Got a Ph.D. in Theology? Go Work for a Church. As one commenter remarked, however, not only the church needs you; several parachurch organizations (such as Inter-Varsity) are hiring Ph.D.s in Biblical Studies and Theology. Not to mention the need for teachers in places like China. I say, go for it, then let the Lord open the right door for you.
7:58 AM Good morning from Bradford Hall! I have no news of consequence to report except that I am taking Nigusse for yet another haircut today. I have spent the morning in deep philosophical contemplation as to why the man needs to feel so preened. Then I remember reading, many years ago, something in Aristotle. Let's see ... where was it? Oh yeah, it was in his treatise on Politics, book 4 and chapter 4:
So there you have it! Becky, meanwhile, has been throwing herself into her sewing. It is good to see her acting normally -- what does she NOT "throw herself into"?
Sounding another note, yesterday I happened to be reading commentator Chuck Baldwin's latest column called Joe Scarborough Joins the Anti-Gun Left, in which he cites a really amazing statistic. He said, and I quote,
I find this statistic remarkable. Can anyone provide documentation for it? Until then, I don't see how we can possibly place any confidence in it. In the current debate over gun control, accuracy is everything. Nothing could be more important. Otherwise, the deadly cycle of misinformation just gets perpetuated. I'm not questioning the accuracy of Chuck's statement. I just need corroboration. I think Chuck's instincts are exactly right. I just want him to cross-check his facts.
In the email department, I've received some wonderful letters recently, including this one:
To which I responded:
Here's another letter:
I appreciate words like these immensely.
As for my goals for the day, I plan on working a bit on my book Godworld, which I hoped to finish last year -- and never have finished, nor ever shall. I am taking a delightful detour through Rom. 12:9-21, which, to me, immortalizes New Testament ethics as no other passage can do, except for the Sermon on the Mount. One day, years ago, I was reading this passage when it occurred to me that Paul most certainly must have known Matt. 5:44 (see v. 14) and Matt. 9:50 (see v. 18), not to mention Matt. 5:39 (see v. 19) and Matt. 5:44 (see v. 20). In fact, it was this observation that led to my interest in the Synoptic Problem, and eventually I ended up in an abbey in West London retranslating the church fathers from the original Greek and Latin. After I was finished I did the sensible thing: I published a book that contains my translations -- Why Four Gospels?
It's been over ten years since the book first appeared. Ten years. That's as long as the siege of Troy. Sadly, it seems that those fortresses of folly against which I've been fighting are as strongly entrenched as ever. I say all of this to explain why I am so insistent with my students that they do original research. The steel core of work in ancient texts is in the solid linguistic and historical courses covering not only New Testament Greek grammar but ancient historiography. Hence my interest in the science of linguistics, even though I am a complete novice and a rank amateur. (I suppose a Johnny-come-lately philologist is better than none.) But as I have worked away, I have grown more and more baffled by the lack of firsthand investigation of the whole subject of the Synoptic Problem. My little book on the topic is aimed at the general reader, but I still have a special place in my heart for those whose labors take them deeply into the core of the subject. I feel like a man about to jump off a bridge tied to a cannonball when I say it, but if there is one spot in the field of Gospel research that seems deaf to the voice of common wisdom, it is the Synoptic Problem, steeped as we are in our adherence to the long-cherished Markan Hypothesis. Will the next generation of scholars pick up the mantle? It is a fascinating task. It will mean months of labor and only a handful of readers. But someone must be drafted for this role if respect for sound literary investigation is to survive.
Well. I think that's all for now. Thanks for visiting. I enjoyed our little chat.
Thursday, December 20
5:12 PM Does a week go by without Arthur Sido posting some pretty profound thoughts? His latest post is on Heb. 6:9-12. I loved this part:
God never forgets it when you serve the saints. Never.
2:54 PM His father's name was Patricius, his mother's was Monica. Of course, I'm referring to the church father known as Augustine (Augustinus). However, Augustine is also known by his family name, which was ...? Email me with the answer and you might win a free copy of Why Four Gospels?
Why this book? Because in it I give full credence to the testimonies of the fathers concerning the historical origins of the Gospels.
Enjoy the contest. I'll draw your names from a hat and announce the winner tomorrow. Be sure to include your mailing address when you write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2:40 PM Greek students! David Parris reviews Joseph Fantin's The Greek Imperative Mood in the New Testament. (He likes it.)
2:23 PM Our elders have been teaching through the book of Romans and have now almost completed the first 11 chapters. A much-debated crux of interpretation is, of course, Paul's reference to Christ as the "end" (telos) of the law in Rom. 10:4. Today I ran across a very interesting essay on this subject by John Paul Heil of the Catholic University of America, who argues that telos here means "end." If you'd like to read his essay (pdf), click here. Heil, of course, is well-known for his work on the Pauline letters. His other online essays might also appeal to you:
1:58 PM Take a look at this 16-year old girl in North Korea, a victim of malnutrition.
But churches in Texas are doing what they can to help. You can read about it here. Something is terribly wrong when we throw away food in America and children in other nations are starving. When Jesus walked on earth He showed us not merely what God is like but what God wants us to be like. So kudos to these churches in Texas with their Texas-sized hearts. They are a great example of the dead-to-self life that Jesus calls us all to model.
10:30 AM The dates for our SEBTS conference on the Pericope Adulterae have now been set for April 25-26, 2014. I know that sounds like a long time away but it will be here before you know it, so do mark your calendars now. As I type, Maurice and I are firming up the speaker line-up and so far it looks real good. You will absolutely love Wake Forest in the spring, and we even have your favorite coffee shops now.
10:04 AM Very honored and excited to be speaking to about 80 of our doctoral students at next month's Ph.D. colloquium and dessert. The date is Monday, January 24. My topic? "Great Commission Leaders."
9:58 AM Calling all lovers of Latin! How would like to view map animations of Caesar's Gallic War as the text is read aloud in Latin? Well, here you go. I am amazed at how useful a pedagogical tool this is. Now if someone would only do this for Paul's missionary journeys in Acts. Advanced Greek Grammar students -- any takers?
9:04 AM Today I'd like to post a poem by Longfellow. It's called "Resignation." It's for all the grieving families in Connecticut.
There is no flock, however watched and
8:58 AM I remain strangely affected by the death of U.S. Ambassador Paul Stevens in Benghazi. Today I read a report that three State Department officials have been sacked for their apparent failure to provide adequate security for the ambassador. Mr. Stevens died of smoke inhalation in a supposed "safe house" that was anything but safe.
Goodness gracious. It was Sept. 11 after all. Benghazi was a high threat post. And not a single Marine guard? One report I read criticized the government for "major failures at the State Department at very high levels." I'll say.
My evangelist's mind struggles to find an application, somehow, to the Christian life. I think it's a great mistake to portray the Christian life as anything other than a series of grave trials when we preach the Gospel. Just read Acts 14:22. To be sure, we have every spiritual blessing in union with Christ. But with the blessings come the adversaries. Our State Department minimized the adversaries in Tunisia. We do the same thing, I think. Like Israel of old, a lot of superficial pilgrims start out for the milk and honey but soon fall away when they encounter the Canaanites. The opposition is underestimated. Right now I struggle to come to terms with a couple of people I was instrumental in leading to the Lord in Ethiopia whose profession has borne no fruit. They show little or no interest in spiritual things. Such an attitude is a serious symptom. Satan has a false gospel with a fake repentance and a pseudo-faith and a shallow discipleship. Weak Christians will easily fall prey to modern magicians who peddle their false gospels. They can do a lot of damage before they are exposed for who they are. Like Mr. Stevens, some rest in the false security of their "safe-house-faith." Some, tragically, are even to going to hell on a church letterhead.
To me, nothing under the sun is as terrifying as thinking you are safe when you are on the brink of disaster and death. Questions spin around in my head: Did I sufficiently warn them? Did I tell them of the dangers? Demas forsook Paul. I think it was because he fell in love with money. Oh Materialism -- the latest goddess in Ethiopia! She has deceived many. They make a good start only to depart later. Thankfully, Paul also had his John Mark who, having left the apostle, later made good. Paul welcomed him back with open arms and found a place for him in ministry.
Sometimes I feel like I'm losing more Demases than gaining John Marks.
One blog post isn't going to change all of this, but I had to share with you my frustration. I'm putting these words out there on the internet as a whisper of defeat and a plea for prayer. I've climbed Mount Olomana and surfed 30-footers at Sunset Beach and spoken before thousands, but I think this might be the greatest challenge I've ever faced.
Wednesday, December 19
7:48 PM As you know, last Friday was commencement at Southeastern. There was so much I wanted to say to our graduates but time failed me. Here, then, are a few words of advice as you launch out into the deep. These thoughts came to me this evening as I sat on my living room sofa, so they definitely did not come down from Mount Sinai! At any rate, here they are:
Be restless with the status quo, both social and ecclesiastical.
Don't be trapped into thinking that just because something is radical it must be right.
Don't let "Great Commission Christian" become the next shibboleth. The words are easy to say. But it's the deed that counts.
Our total church life is to be shaped not by the traditions of men but by the Word of God, and we should always be both courageous and courteous in accomplishing this task.
Remember that only within the context of love and genuine relationships can the issues that divide us be profitably resolved.
Preaching the Gospel is not simply saving souls but liberating men and women from everything in their lives that hinders them from responding freely to the living God. Always hold together evangelism and social responsibility.
Beware of one-man ministry. Both Scripture and common sense tell us it's wrong. No one person has all the gifts. One-man ministry fails the test of equipping (Eph. 4:11-12).
Be willing to offer yourselves to others and not just your knowledge.
We need to rediscover the power of praying for those in authority over us. What might happen if each of us earnestly prayed for President Obama and Speaker Boehner? To pray earnestly means to pray constantly and consistently. It shows God we mean business. Do we?
Despise not the house church movement. To be sure, those who have withdrawn from the institutionalized church often in fact institutionalize themselves. The movement is very diverse and embraces several emphases (all the way from the "angry young man" syndrome to the original Anabaptist vision of the 16th century). But be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water. The house church movement is fundamentally a movement for radical obedience.
Leaders should feel a divine impatience with secondary and peripheral matters.
Speak to others about Christ in language they can understand.
Although there may be no clearly "Christian" point of view in matters regarding public policy, great issues cry out for Christian comment and, more importantly, Calvary-like action.
Do not let people think you are without failures and failings. Be real.
Be willing to hoist your sails whenever it becomes evident that the wind of the Spirit is blowing.
Evangelism is never enough. Kerygma must be accompanied by didache, the patient instruction of new disciples.
Finally, pray without ceasing. I quote the words of Richard Longenecker (Into God's Presence: Prayer in the New Testament, p. 226), who says that prayer is "the lifeblood of every Christian and the wellspring of all Christian ministry. And what was true of Paul and his readers in that day remains true for us, his readers, today."
God bless you, dear friends, wherever the Lord Jesus sends you to serve Him. Do stay in touch!
Below: My Th.M. student Andy Bowden who graduated last May and is now studying for his Ph.D. in Munich. I'm able to keep up with him at his fine blog.
5:02 PM My thanks to Kregel Academic for sending me a gratis copy of Herb Bateman's brand spanking new book, Charts on the Book of Hebrews.
It's been endorsed by the likes of George Guthrie (Union University), David Allen (SWBTS), Jon Laansma (Wheaton College), and one very obscure professor at SEBTS, who writes:
I meant every word. I have no doubt that I will require this book when next I teach Hebrews.
4:28 PM I've had a lot of great students pass through my classes during my 15 years at SEBTS, but two of the very best were Brian Barley and Andy Metzger, both of whom have been to the farm on many occasions. Praise the Lord, they are now serving Jesus together in Denver, and they just sent me their annual video report. You can view it here. Friends, I believe we are on the verge of one of the greatest explosions of evangelism and church planting in history, and it's partly because of guys like Brian and Andy who are giving their best for Christ. The most touching part of the video for me? Watching the baptisms taking place in a water trough like the ones we use on the farm. Not only that, but friends baptize friends, parents children, and husbands wives. How great to see the church obeying the command of Christ without falling into legalism.
I know the plant was tough on Brian and Andy. But God has been faithful. "No pain, no gain" applies to church planting as well as athletic endeavors. Until we learn to accept inconvenience and sacrifice as routine and normal, we will never see the Great Commission fulfilled.
Blessings on you guys and the church you have the honor of leading. Praying for you this day and rejoicing with you in the goodness of our Lord!
4:04 PM Hello blogging buds!
I just returned home from Wake Forest. More on that in a minute. I have a weakness for well-written essays, even if they are written by people with whom I normally disagree. Bill Bennett's The case for gun rights is stronger than you think will, in fact, get you thinking. He asks:
That's a very good question! According to Paul, God allows governments to use the sword for maintaining law and order (Rom. 13:1-4). And Jesus Himself referred to the faith of a sword-wielding Roman Centurion as having greater faith than anyone in Israel (Matt. 8:5-10). Then get this. On his blog today, my friend Allan Bevere posted an article called Crime Rate in the U.S. the Lowest in Decades. He writes:
These two posts are sure to generate a bit of a stir. Good! My point in all of this is not to defend or reject gun ownership. That's a personal choice. My point is rather that we need to clearly distinguish between facts and feelings. As in many other matters, we have to keep thinking through the issues. I just say let's come clean and admit we could debate the merits of gun control endlessly along with other political matters, which is all well and good, just as long as it doesn't invite the world's divisiveness into the church. I could be dead wrong about what I am about to say, but it isn't the church's responsibility to resolve complex political questions. As with most ambiguous issues in society today, there are a billion complex factors going into assessing whether or not government should regulate private property and to what degree. Good Christians will disagree. Always have, always will. That's why I will never christen my political views as being the "right" ones. I'm increasingly convinced that the best way to truly bless and help society is by acknowledging that we live in a fallen, oppressed world where things go tragically wrong and then focusing our energy and effort on reflecting the beauty of God's kingdom through Calvary-love. A good place to start is by befriending the Adam Lanzas in our lives.
And now, on a totally unrelated note, here's a picture of my bride and me enjoying lunch today at – did you guess it? – the Olive Garden.
Ain't the Lord good? As we exited the restaurant, Becky and I both commented on this sign:
A General Manager's name set in stone? They must have a lot of confidence in her. Then again, I did notice those screws in the four corners, so maybe she isn't as irreplaceable as we first thought. At any rate, we both had a good chuckle when we observed, with not a little wry, that most pastors' names are much less permanently affixed to their churches' marquees.
Finally, here's what it looks like outside my office.
A huge ditch is being dug between Stephens-Mackie and the Library. My suite-mate Josh said it's to enable Dr. Köstenberger to have easy access from his office to the books during inclement weather.
Everyone's a comedian :-)
P.S. I finished writing the Advanced Greek Grammar syllabus today. It should be posted to Campus Net by Friday.
Tuesday, December 18
8:36 PM Tonight Becky and I were listening to Handel's famous Messiah. The Hallelujah Chorus ended a few minutes ago. I declare that there is a quality in the lives of great musicians that wins my admiration more than anything you find in an athlete. Victoria Jones recalls seeing her first Messiah performance. Do you remember yours? The Messiah -- what a beautiful picture of our redemption in Christ. And the Hallelujah Chorus is the perfect centerpiece.
I am amazed at the power of praise. I am wealthy in the number of people who are supporting me in prayer. Hallelujah! I am blessed by the people who intercede for me when I leave our shores to minister in some other part of the world. Hallelujah! I am blessed with close friends who are strong right arms of encouragement. Hallelujah! I have the privilege of knowing people who delight in serving us here at the farm. Hallelujah! I am surrounded in my life by men and women with various spiritual gifts who regularly edify me with their talents and ministries. Hallelujah! I am amazed at the faithfulness of my students who apply themselves to their work with diligence and humility. Hallelujah! I am wealthy in the number of memories in my past when I poured out my soul to God and He heard me and intervened. Hallelujah!
My friend, the words of the Hallelujah Chorus will lift whatever cloud is covering you, and you will find yourself thanking the Lord that He has ministered to you in very special ways.
Ironically, the best performance of the Messiah that Becky and I ever heard was that sung by a kibbutz choir in Israel back in 1986. I don't know when I have been so touched by music. The privilege of being present on an occasion like that is inestimable. I believe that a person is truly wealthy when he or she is free from pointless worry. More and more, Becky and I are learning the lesson of leaving everything in the hands of God. We do not feel the pressure of being super saints or part of a megachurch. We are free to be ourselves. I am quite sure that there are times ahead when discouragement will set in (again) and things will go terribly wrong. But no matter what happens to us in the future, no matter how many more years he gives us together, and no matter where we find ourselves, I pray that we will always shout "Hallelujah!" and be able to serve the one who is the object of our praise.
6:48 PM Quick photo update:
1) The new heater/AC unit is now in over at Maple Ridge.
This means that our guests will neither freeze to death nor die of heat stroke.
2) Our carpenter has begun the trim work on the kitchen area. Once that is done he'll begin hanging the porch door and installing the new hardwood flooring. So the good work continues.
3) Finally, here's what we had for supper tonight:
Farm fresh beef and green beans (the potatoes, however, came from Food Lion). Never has food tasted better. Thank you, honey.
2:33 PM Carey Crawford explains to us the difference between asked questions and unasked questions at church. The asked questions include:
He is SO right. These are the "traditional" concerns we all have about church. (I might add one or two, including "Why do people chew gum during church? This ain't no baseball game, folks." Or "Why do men wear their hats at church?")
What, then, are the questions we should be asking but are afraid to voice out loud? According to Carey they include:
Do we really have to meet again on Sunday night and Wednesday night?
Why is the preacher the only one who gets to speak?
Is the way we’re doing church actually biblical?
Could we not reach more people by going where they are instead of trying to get them to come to us?
When did we begin to measure commitment to Christ by attendance & participation?
What’s wrong with working with a church of a different denomination to do ministry?
Are we making any difference at all? Would the community miss us if we closed our doors tomorrow?
The tragedy of our times is that the situation is desperate but we the saints are not. The Scriptures point out what a healthy local church should look like. Theoretically and theologically we believe in the New Testament as God's authoritative Word, but our belief does not motivate much correct religious activity, including asking the proper questions. The average Christian today is flabby because of lack of such exercise. It is hard work to reform a local church. Do you work at it? Or are you content with the status quo?
(And yes, I really do think we ought to stop chewing that thar gum during church! Yall wid me?)
1:29 PM There are so many surprises in my life that make me smile from ear to ear. When Becky announced, "Let's go out for pizza for lunch," I experienced such a moment. I'm so glad to see her appetite returning. I know that many of you have prayed for this. So I share my joy now. It's all the grace of God. May His power be real in your world, whatever broken or hellish trial you are facing. He is able.
Now If I can just figure out how to get her down to Wake Forest for some Italian food at her favorite restaurant, The Olive Garden.
Oh wait -- I think I know....
11:56 AM Here's a great review of my friend Alvin Reid's Evangelism Handbook. I've got some great colleagues. Always happy to promote their work.
10:24 AM Thousands want to know: how's Nigusse coming with his course preparations for Jerusalem University College? Today he's working on his maps, tracing the ancient trade routes through the Holy Land.
The work is meticulous, but Nigusse loves details.
I can't imagine the fun he's going to have spending three weeks in Israel. I am particular eager to find out if he meets any of the Falasha (Ethiopian) Jews who emigrated to Israel years ago. Never heard of them? Their story is well worth your time.
10:08 AM Ever eaten with your hands? In Ethiopia we do it all the time. And it makes sense: one less thing to place on the table. Now I am told that the Chinese are about to abandon chopsticks. China simply can't afford the drain on its limited forests when it uses 45 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks each year. There's even a push for requiring the use of re-usable chopsticks. Who knows -- maybe they will use their hands, like the Ethiopians. In India I've also eaten with my fingers. The difference is that in Ethiopia you have a sop called injera that makes picking up your food a whole lot easier. Here's Becky cooking injera in a village in Northern Ethiopia.
It takes loads of talent to be able to make good injera. I was hoping Nigusse would be able to teach us, but the man is completely useless in the cooking department. It's not a man's job in Ethiopia anyway, so I can't really fault him.
All this to say: Try Ethiopian or Indian cuisine sometime instead of MacDonald's. The kids will love eating with their digits.
8:30 AM Quote of the day (Becky Black):
8:12 AM This morning we received this wonderful email. Thanks to all who write.
8:04 AM Once again I've strolled over to Daniel Streett's website to see what the latest news is in the field of Living Koine. I'm often ill at ease during these visits -- much as the Virginian Jefferson must have felt, two centuries earlier, if admitted by accident into a group of Boston Federalists. I admire the work being done by this small but vocal band of Greek scholars. How idealistic and hopeful this idea of conversational fluency in Koine Greek!
Compared with the worldly-wise and often cynical tone of the Brahmins, these outcasts have a good deal to offer in the way of Greek pedagogy. The most durable hope for a better future for our students seems to me to be found in history and literature. I would add "science" if I thought that I really had a scientific mind -- and I'm the author of Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek! I rarely dissent openly. I have no quarrel with the kind of questioning of long-cherished notions except this: All this is merely preparatory to our real task of studying and then obeying the teaching of the Savior. The main thing is to learn how to paddle one's own canoe and then launch out into the deep sea of service to others. I am tempted also to mention here the jealousies and animosities that sometimes underlie the decorous surface of New Testament studies, but I have little love for controversy. I do hope, however, the movement will not perish due to overconfidence. One's gift of eloquence can sometimes lead one into overstatements that in quieter moments one would have been the first to criticize. But enough said. This is, after all, a mere difference of opinion between friends. And I am sure we all have much to learn from each other.
P.S. You can be sure that a prominent place will be given to the Living Language Approach in our new and improved Greek Portal when it is launched on Jan. 1.
7:55 AM My thanks to all who wrote to tell me the solution to my little problem with Blogger. It worked! Now will someone please hit me with the stupid stick?
Monday, December 17
9:18 PM Friends, I need your help. Something changed today on my iPad. When I try to go to a site hosted by blogger, I do not get the normal site but what looks like a list of recent posts. Here's an example. When I go to jpnee.blogspot.com (my assistant's very fine website) the iPad automatically changes the URL to jpnee.blogspot.com/?m=1. I get the same ?m=1 on other sites hosted by blogger. I did NOTHING to cause this change. Looks like the iPad did it all by itself. Any idea how I can go back to the normal site?
7:15 PM Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye is dead at the age of 88.
Of Japanese descent, to me his name was synonymous with Hawaiian politics. I remember him mostly for his WW II heroics (he lost an arm during combat in Italy). This earned for him a Medal of Honor. Every boy growing up in Hawaii knew that the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, to which Inouye belonged, was the most decorated unit in the history of American warfare. In 1937, about one out of three people living in Hawaii were of Japanese descent. Roosevelt's post-Dec. 7 internment policy (which I mentioned in a previous blog post) was never implemented in the Islands for obvious economic reasons. Interestingly, my Hawaiian-born and bred father, who enlisted in the U.S. Army in November of 1941, never saw duty in the Pacific. Hawaiian G.I.s were all shipped off to Europe. Sadly, despite the 442's service and decorations, I am told that anti-Japanese sentiment remained strong in America after WW II. According to Wikipedia, Japanese veterans were welcomed home by signs that read "No Japs Allowed" and "No Japs Wanted" and were denied service in shops and restaurants. As I recall, things were a bit better in the Islands. I grew up surrounded by people of Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and Korean ancestry. I thrived in such a mixed ethnic milieu, as did most Hawaiians I do believe. Indeed, today I find the term "Jap" extremely offensive. The reason I mention this is because I believe it is still used on the home page of a biblioblogger who is based in the U.K. I suppose in some countries the term is not a pejorative. Where I live and move and have my being, it is an ethnic slur. Most Japanese people I know would consider it offensive, whether they live in the U.K. or here.
Inouye was a gentle, kindly man, with whose politics I rarely agreed. But I know his soft-spoken demeanor will be missed in the halls of the Senate.
RIP, and Aloha.
6:48 PM "A Pharisee is hard on others and easy on himself, but a spiritual man is easy on others and hard on himself." -- A.W. Tozer
6:15 PM I am very glad to see this discussion of Christian Reconstructionism. It will be interesting to see what impact it has on the Christian homeschooling movement.
6:12 PM I am really looking forward to my "vacation" during J-term. Yes, I will be teaching during the morning hours, but my afternoons will be free to work on the new Greek Portal and to revamp my courses. I am by no means sure that I teach Greek any more effectively at 60 than at 26, but I can't help teach it differently. If a teacher has a vigorous intellectual life at all, his or her opinion of the subject matter and methodology is bound to change somewhat with each passing year. I suppose my familiarity with the subject matter is the very reason why I have to sharpen my senses afresh by reading the current literature and re-thinking my old conclusions. Very likely I have re-shaped too rarely in my 36 years of teaching, but I have yet to be convinced that the work of some well-published authors has led to real and permanent progress in the field (and this includes the work that has been done recently on verbal aspect theory). Then too, I am also waiting for the definitive treatment of "deponency." So many interesting tangents exist in my field, and I wish I had the time and energy to chase down every rabbit trial.
However, that's why I have students, and thus far they have been most accommodating :-)
5:43 PM I can't embed the following You Tube because only the old embed code works on my computer (which, by the way, You Tube has announced it is bringing back), but do watch this dog interacting with a small child. Absolutely beautiful.
2:09 PM Hey there! Just finished clearing another farm path. Let's see, what did Becky name this one...?
Just had to show you this pic. Have you ever in your life seen two trees hugging each other like this?
Reminded me of Becky and yours truly these past three years :-)
Off to get an oil change.
12:12 PM Today Becky has been polyurethaning our new farm signs.
If you ever visit us, I doubt very seriously that you will ever get lost.
11:45 AM Greetings, friends.
Today I'm continuing to clean up the farm for the opening of our new guest house. As I've been working, I've been thinking a lot about what retreating really means. The frustrating think to me is that so many evangelical retreats are program heavy and activity-oriented. What Becky and I do here is almost the complete opposite. People come here to put body and soul back together, to get in touch with the Lord (again), or to reconnect as families and married couples. Because the farm is so quiet and secluded, we think it is ideal for silent retreats far away from the hustle and bustle of life.
To be honest, the farm is also cathartic for me. How my heart goes out to those grieving parents in Connecticut. How in the world can they cope with such stress and loss? So many memories must linger in those strangely silent bedrooms. But the truth is, all of us have stressors in our lives. All of us have, at some time in our lives, gone through a traumatic experience that left us wondering, How can I make it? God's grace is designed to help us live with our traumas and sorrows and stresses in ways that are healthy rather than resorting to harmful solutions such as excessive drinking or drug use. Personally, I so enjoy serving and teaching and writing and traveling that I forget how important it is for me to sit back and soak in the lavish grace of the Lord. So pray for me -- that somehow I might find in my own life the balance that I seek to instill in others.
In other news, Becky is doing well. She remains a risk for bleeding, blood clots, and stroke. She still labors with a lot of stomach and intestinal issues, at times finds the pain almost unbearable. But on the whole, Becky IS COMING BACK. Thank you again for being so kind to send us your emails of support. I am very grateful.
A final note: Today on the Diane Rehm show there was a very good discussion of stress and how mental illness plays into American society. Tomorrow on her show she will begin a much-needed discussion (in my opinion) of gun control laws, beginning with the assault rifle. The pictures from Connecticut are so awful. Sorrow and grief everywhere. My theologian mind asks, "What is God doing in all of this?" And my more practical mind asks, "Isn't it time for a national discussion?" I pray that the Lord will be very present and real in the lives of those families. I am praying for lots of things: emotional healing, wisdom for our national leaders, reconciliations, etc. As we move ahead as a nation, I am placing no limits on what God can can do. "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness, O Lord."
Thanks so much for your prayers and friendship.
8:46 AM My days in Basel were peaceful and charming. The countryside was richly wooded. The peaks of the Black Forest and the Vosges were not far away, and Becky and I could walk to the Rhine in 2 minutes. On Sunday mornings we used to attend the small Baptist church there, on the Sankt-Johanns Ring. There were rarely more than 30 or 40 in attendance. Occasionally they heard the viri juvenis ornatissiumus Americanus studiosus theologiae give the Sunday sermon, though I fear my accent sounded a bit too German (and much less Swiss) for their liking. At the university I attended lectures in German as well as seminars in which I was expected to participate. The system was excellent for self-starters but fatal to many a weakling. I quickly leaned how infinitely superior was the university's standard of philological discipline to anything I had known prior to my arrival in Basel. One could not help but be aware that the Swiss training made our college Greek seem like child's play.
Since those wonderful days along the Rhine I have never lost my love for languages, especially Greek. It was thus with great interest that I read these words yesterday:
The online article from which this quote is taken is called The Future of Ancient Greek. Any instructor of ancient Greek will profit from reading it. One of the topics we hope to explore in my Advanced Greek Grammar course next semester is Greek pedagogy and especially the role that digital platforms will play in our instruction -- all of this with a keen eye to the eventual revision of my beginning grammar.
So what do you think? Where will Greek instruction be in ten years? Do blog about it at your site. I for one will be listening.
8:22 AM Useful tool here for all language students: Online Dictionary of Language Terminology. Try typing in "allomorph" and you'll see what I mean.
8:20 AM Slept in till 8:00 am this morning. I must be on vacation.
Sunday, December 16
5:48 PM I grew up in the church in Hawaii in the 1960s. Upon graduating from high school, we young surfers were off to college. Trained or untrained, wise or foolish, our happy-go-lucky days were over. While in high school, however, I recall attending annual "prophecy conferences" at my home church and at other churches in Kailua. No one pays much attention to these now, but in our day crowds attended them. I remember Hal Lindsey regaling us with stories of the great tribulation. I doubt if Bryan ever declaimed with a fiercer conviction that he was right. This "Boom in Doom" (as it was called by Time Magazine) was part and parcel of being an evangelical teenager back then.
Today I thank heaven that I never have to attend another prophecy conference. We do not have to speculate about the afterlife. We have the Lord's word on that. There is a wonderful place prepared for us. He would have told us had it not been so. A simple assembly of humble Christians can know more about the end times than all the great theologians trying to speculate about the future. By God's grace, by His unmerited favor, I am saved, delivered from future wrath, and made a partaker of an eternal salvation. Christians are not merely polished; they are pardoned. Jesus did not pay such a high price merely to shine us up a bit but to grant us His righteousness and thus make us acceptable to God. Without that grace, without that unmerited favor, we would all be lost, condemned, dead, without God and without hope in this world.
In this day when so many hearts are fainting for fear, when calamities and tragedies seem to abound, we need this grace as never before. If we do not know how to bring this mystery above down into this misery below, then we need a Savior to show us the way. The citizens of an unshakable kingdom not only withstand the doomsdays that come to all earth-dwellers, but they serve the suffering from hearts full of grace. As events continue to unfold in Connecticut, let us not be long on orthodoxy but short on orthopraxy. Beware a Christian profession that is mere words without music, truth without grace.
Through our tears we must point to the Lamb lifted up on Calvary.
2:10 PM Here's a good piece on the forgotten story surrounding the events of Dec. 7, 1941.
How I praise God for those "American Baptist home missionaries [who] swam against the tide of popular opinion, affirming the immigrants and their families as their brothers and sisters, and serving among them as the hands and feet of Christ." Talk about love in action.
1:56 PM Hello bloggers!
Just want to say how much I love and respect our leaders at The Hill. They handled last Friday's tragic events with grace and sensitivity. I plan on writing more about church leadership later, but for now I simply wanted to given honor where honor is due. I am deeply humbled to belong to a fellowship that is Scripture-driven, Gospel-focused, and Christ-centered. I encourage all of us to show proper respect and love toward our leaders every chance we get. I'm in total agreement with the apostle Paul, who writes in 1 Thess. 5:12-13:
As an interesting aside, let me also mention a verse in Romans 12 that grabbed my attention this morning as Jason was teaching through Romans:
This is Rom. 12:8. In essence, Paul is saying, "If you're called by God to lead, then make sure you lead with diligence and not slothfully. Give it everything you've got!" I think the leaders at The Hill do a masterful job of doing just that.
Friend, when was the last time you spoke a word of encouragement to your leaders, thanking them for their diligence and hard work on behalf of Christ and His Body? Why not do it today?
10:02 AM So where do we go from here, medically speaking? You can read Becky's thoughts here: Moving from Orthodox Medical Treatment to "Alternative" Treatment. As you can see, Becky has done her "due diligence," and I fully support this new direction in her treatment options. Of course, our hope is not in any of these treatments. Our hope is in the Lord alone.
8:05 AM A recent seminary graduate offers 5 Takeaways from Seminary After Graduating. They are:
Expanding on the latter thought, he writes:
How about you? Did seminary shape you? Or only prepare you for a career? Perhaps both -- or neither?
8:00 AM Over at the M Blog, Guy Muse reflects upon 25 years of service in Latin America as a visionary. (I use "visionary" instead of "missionary" intentionally. To understand why you'll need to read Guy's post.) These words touched me:
"Hidden in the back yard." We missionaries do not need to take the lead where there already is a national church. When the church in the book of Acts became centralized in Jerusalem, God scattered it through persecution. Without decentralization, the church could not reach its maximum potential as a witnessing community. But scattered, the church preached wherever it went, carrying out the Great Commission. Within these scattered congregations, God provided leaders directly. In Acts we read, "Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust" (Acts 14:23-24). Nationalization is an act of trust: trust in God to further His church on earth according to biblical principles, and trust in believers to whom the leadership of these local churches is to be entrusted.
By insisting on control (or leadership) of national institutions, as some missionary organizations seem to do today, expat missionaries belie their professed commitment to servanthood. The apostle Paul pioneered the local ministry model. It deserves emulating today. Wherever I travel, my goal is to come alongside the national churches and assist them to the best of my (very limited) abilities. My approach is intentionally cooperative. I seek to take no leadership role. I am there to serve, not to be served. It is this true "partnership in the Gospel" (Phil. 1:5) that makes missionary service so rewarding for me.
Below: My Romans class last summer in Alaba, Ethiopia.
And here's my Pastoral Epistles class that I taught in their evening Bible School.
Imagine the joy of teaching Romans all day and the Pastorals every evening!
Saturday, December 15
9:26 PM Tonight I read this challenge:
To which I respond:
Whenever I read a blog post like the one I quoted above, I'm reminded of Peter's words (2 Pet. 3:4): "Since our forefathers died, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." So argue the pagans who ridiculed the prospects of the Lord's return. But the same argument is advanced time and again by those who do not believe that God ever breaks through the normal course of events. In their thinking, there is no room for Him to perform a miracle, especially in our tradition-bound churches. They live with such low expectations, fueled in part perhaps by their personal disappointments, that most things can be accounted for by purely natural causes. Leave the institutional church and you'll find the true church! But I am here to tell you that God's work CAN be accomplished in the most institutional churches when they begin to yield to His Spirit.
Friends, renewal is not only possible; it is actually happening. I can tell you IT IS happening at Bethel Hill Baptist Church. We do not live in rarified spiritual superiority far removed from the vexations of this age. No, we grapple with and sometimes even overcome them. All because Jesus is in our midst. What were the earliest followers of Jesus called? Christians. Why? Because they were identified with a Person, not with a principle or a philosophy or a program (or an anti-program). Whether or not you are in an institutional church, we are all married to Another, espoused to one Husband. Why, then, can't we work together? Never has the Body of Christ needed humility as today. It is simply NOT the case that there are no traditional churches in which God is being honored. The church has, as I said on this blog just the other day, a remarkable self-renewing capacity.
So to all of you who are in the institutional church yet who desire to experience the new wineskins Jesus talked about, I say: It can be done. These are days of great expectations. Dare we hope for a miracle in our traditional churches? God in Christ says yes. The only answer to our apathy is an awakening of God, and this will not come irresistibly. God rewards those who diligently seek Him with their whole hearts.
Whether or not this will ever happen in your traditional church or in mine, and what proportions it will assume, and how many of us will truly turn to the Lord in repentance and confession for cleansing and endowment with power, I cannot say. But this one thing is certain:
It is time to wake up.
8:06 PM Becky and I have enjoyed Ethiopian food from Los Angeles to Chicago to Dallas to Addis Ababa, but no food tasted better than the meal we enjoyed this evening at the Abyssinia Restaurant in Raleigh.
And what a cause for rejoicing, too. We topped it off with a hot fudge sundae at MacDonald's for only a buck a apiece.
Life is good.
1:05 PM Before I share with you some wonderful news, here are a few pix of my job du jour.
1) One of our farm paths is a loop, and it has been in need of clearing for many months now. Today was the day. As you can see, it had been sorely neglected by yours truly!
2) The first step in clearing a path is cutting down all of the overhanging branches with one's trusty Farm Boss.
3) Once you've cleared away the growth, this is what it looks like. Wouldn't you rather walk on this path than on the former obstacle course?
4) One then comes around by the creek and begins the descent to Bradford Hall. What you see here is the farm's bonfire pit (in the background) and our log pile (in the foreground).
5) Finally, here's a portion of the "north" loop, after being suitably cleaned up.
And now for the really good news. Tonight, Lord willing, I am taking Becky and Nigusse down to Raleigh for Ethiopian food. We have been waiting for this day for months. Everyone in the whole world (b'hulu alem) knows that Becky is feeling good if she consents to eating Ethiopian cuisine. So there you have it. A huge break-through in her recovery from all of the surgeries and hospitalizations she's had recently. I couldn't be more grateful to God.
Now, for the really big question: what shall we order? :-)
11:32 AM As some of you know, yesterday I had intended on finishing the syllabus for next semester's Advanced Greek Grammar course, but alas, I ran out of time. Several of you have asked what the requirements will be, and here I can say that the only graded requirement will be a major term paper (and accompanying classroom presentation) on a controversial topic of your choice. Possible topics include:
So be thinking now about which topic you might want to write on. Some of these, of course, interest me more than others (extra credit to the student who can find a completely fluent speaker of Koine Greek!).
Hope to have the syllabus posted to Moodle by next Friday.
10:55 AM No. Don't tell me. Not another pot-stirrer. Doesn't he know that to run contrary to the prevailing wind is unthinkable in this day of conformity? Craig, I tell you, nothing is settled until it is settled by the majority. Nothing. So you might as well stop stirring the pot.
10:45 AM Envy not, I am told, but I'm afraid I'm falling into sin. You see, without inviting me to go with them, my in-laws attended the annual Christmas concert of the greatest vocal group on the planet last night in Richardson, TX. I feel a wee bit overlooked. I had endeavored, it is true, to talk Becky into a quick trip Dallas "to see your parents," but she saw through my ruse. I feel an immense relief, however, now that dad has promised to send me a DVD of last night's concert.
The group, by the way, is called The Vocal Majority, membership in which requires a good singing voice and, especially, an ability to ham it up before a live audience. I've often thought dad should join but, unfortunately, he only meets one of the two qualifications.
9:42 AM It's hard to believe. Nigusse will be leaving for Israel in just two Sundays. From the Jerusalem University College website:
Poor Nigusse; no rest for the weary. Hope you enjoy the map work as much as mom and I did when we took this course together in 1986.
9:15 AM Since nobody identified the building in our picture contest, I'll spill the beans: The Lee Chapel at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA. The General and his family are buried in the lower level of the chapel. Lee's horse Traveller is interned outside. Other worthwhile venues while you're in Lexington include VMI and the house in which Stonewall Jackson and his wife lived.
9:06 AM Fellow Greek students, Michel Buijs of Utrecht University reviews B. H. McLean, New Testament Greek: an Introduction (Cambridge University Press, 2011). He's not so positive, but what do you think?
7:28 AM Excellent food for thought from Don Carson. Here are his "three secrets of productivity":
1) Learn to fill in the little empty periods that clutter each day.
2) Don’t fritter. When you work, work hard; when you are not working, quit entirely.
3) Discover how different aspects of your work can leverage other aspects of your work. For example, choosing your reading to feed into things that you’ll be preparing over the next six or nine months adds to godly efficiency.
Have I the audacity to add a couple more "secrets"? Are there cows in Texas?
1) I find that good writers (not merely prolific writers, but good ones) maintain their curiosity about the world around them. The "eternal mundane spectacle" continues to unroll before their eyes. As I study the log of my own literary journey, it is clear that most of my published works grew out a perpetual struggle to see things from a different perspective than others. I have a passion for the underdog, though I am told that this is quite out of fashion these days. That may be true. But good writers are always on the lookout against group think. At least that has been my experience, and it is a pleasure that is heightened from year to year.
2) Remember that audiences have an intellectual hunger for the very best one can give them. The plain fact is that much of what is written today is drivel. To tell the truth, I think that some of the essays I wrote in my earlier years fall into this category. There are many subtle temptations in this calling of ours to write, but none more insidious than writing for writing's sake. Commentaries on John, for example, abound, but they differ little in content from each other. Let the author beware. Even his colleagues begin to suspect him as soon as he turns into a repetitive bore. It is true that a seminary professor is supposed to be "producing" something, but in the tolerably long row of books that bear my name upon their fading covers there is only here and there any proof of true novelty. Even as I write my next book, I find I still have a good deal of spade work to do. I grow more and more baffled that I still have the time to write, and indeed the day will come when I can cheerfully leave the writing to younger and stouter scholars.
Until that day comes, however, I will continue to make my notes, which some day will make a huge bonfire.
6:47 AM One of the distressing developments in this superficial age of ours is cheap exploitation of the unthinkable for one's cause. We suffered yesterday from a double tragedy: 26 senseless murders in Connecticut, and an infinite number of senseless voices shouting. Others think it is good to pause and mourn, to say a prayer, and to grieve with those families. It is amazing how much double talk can be heard among the saints these days. It is somehow accepted as quite normal and part of our blogging "shop talk."
Pontificating when there is a tragedy is a subtle habit and, once established, is hard to break.
Friday, December 14
8:20 PM Good evening, bloggers and bloggerettes! How about a photo fanfare?
1) The faculty and audience prays for our SEBTS graduates at today's commencement ceremony in a packed-out Binckley Chapel.
Danny Akin's message from Mark 10:45 was anything but boring.
2) Congratulations to my Th.M. student Heebum Lee and his wonderful family.
Heebum now returns to his native South Korea. I told him his first priority is to invite me back to Seoul (for my 7th trip there).
3) Our thanks to SEBTS students Patrick, Laki, "Dr." Luke, Johnny, and Zach for their help today with various farm projects.
The best thing is sharing our common love for Jesus.
4) A much-needed French drain is now finished.
5) Laki removes wall paper at Maple Ridge. Now there's a man's man.
6) Log clean up time.
This is just scratching the surface, but at least it's a start.
7) The Farm Boss.
I'm referring, of course, to the brand name of the chain saw in my hand.
Next project: Splitting all of this fire wood.
The result of all this labor was near-starvation. So tonight Becky served up a delicious meal of fried chicken with mashed potatoes, green beans, cooked carrots, and fresh-baked rolls. I'm so glad that she's feeling good enough to cook again. I ask you to remember us as Becky begins alternative treatments for her cancer. Our family is so grateful for your prayers.
I'd write more but I have total and complete brain burnout.
Jesus bless you!
P.S. Finished reporting my semester grades today. Students, check Moodle for the results. And do stop by my office soon to retrieve your papers, quizzes, exams, etc.
Thursday, December 13
7:06 PM Here's a quote from an essay that appeared on Tuesday in The Atlantic (Let's Give Chivalry Another Chance):
I know it's old-fashioned to say so, but husbands, the least we can do is to seat our wives at the table and open and close the car door for them. Don't do it? Why not give it a try?
6:58 PM Fellow seminarians, this year H. B. London spoke in the chapel at Dallas Theological Seminary ("THE" seminary, according to my completely unbiased father-in-law, who attended DTS in the early 1950s). This led him to jot down Ten Things Seminary Never Taught Me. I think they are worth repeating here:
For what it's worth, I have written a piece along similar lines: What I Learned During My First Semester in Seminary. It was a lesson I shall never forget. I have discovered that there are two kinds of seminarians: those who have settled into a smug and comfortable acceptance of low living, and those who have risen above mediocrity and have become better persons for the experience. I trust that you are among the latter.
6:44 PM More problems with the Boeing "Dreamliner"? Apparently so, according to the BBC. Ethiopian Airlines is one of only a handful of carriers that use that equipment, and I have long desired to fly on a 787 to Addis. I do hope they work out the problems quickly. I am told that the Dreamliner has more leg-room than the 777, and that's very good news for tall blokes like me.
6:32 PM Since I have finished grading all of my own terms papers this semester (yes, my "graders" do much for me but they never grade anything), I had time this evening to read a term paper written by a SEBTS student for another professor. It's called Nicholas of Lyra. The writer concludes:
Thank you, Nathaniel, for an excellent paper. Through your efforts I learned a great deal about this fourteenth-century Franciscan.
6:13 PM May I offer a brief Christmas meditation?
Jesus said, "If you have faith and do not doubt...." (Matt. 21:21). Paul said we are to pray "without wrath and doubting" (1 Tim. 2:8). Peter was commanded to go to the house of Cornelius "nothing doubting" (Acts 10:20, 11:12). When God asks us to do something -- to bear some burden, to love someone unlovely (that may include perhaps a spouse or a parent or a child), to go to a hard place -- we are to ask no questions. Doubting means double-mindedness. It means wavering. We may have to pray (as I prayed several times today), "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!" By going to Him with our doubts, we give doubt no chance to flourish and grow in our hearts.
Mary believed God about the Christ-child she was to bear. Joseph obeyed the angel and took Mary as his wife. Both might have offered up well-established objections. But they did not doubt the Word of the Lord.
Friend, when God the Holy Spirit sends you on a mission, or gives you a task to perform, ask no questions. Otherwise you will become like a wave in the ocean, driven to despair by the storms of life.
5:35 PM Great news! When you purchase BibleWorks 9, you will now receive a free copy of the ESV Study Bible.
And there's no charge for shipping.
Years ago I was approached to write an article for the Study Bible called "The Original Languages of the Bible." I felt that the reading public would be better served if the article was divided in half, and eventually I produced the essay called "The Original Languages of the Bible: Greek." Peter Williams of Tyndale House eventually wrote the companion essay called "The Original Languages of the Bible: Hebrew and Aramaic." Other essayists include Timothy Tennent ("The Bible and Islam"), Peter Gentry ("The Septuagint"), and Tom Schreiner ("The Theology of the New Testament").
Anyway, seems like a pretty good deal to me.
2:22 PM Just saw this at Jason Kees' site:
My students usually complain about the opposite problem -- having too few pages in which to wax elephant. It's amazing how many of them think that "10-15 pages" means "10-15 pages plus the extra pages I'll need to complete my definitive treatise on the subject."
Conciseness, toujours conciseness!
1:38 PM Enough serious stuff already. Let's have some fun. A free book to the reader who can identify this historic site:
I snapped this photo on my 20th anniversary trip way back in 1996. It's on my list of "Places that Nigusse should see before he returns to Ethiopia." So take a shot at it with your best guess, and I'll announce the winner tomorrow night. The prize is this book.
1:10 PM Been a tough morning for Becky. Her blood clot meds are causing nausea. Please say a prayer for her today.
1:07 PM Greek lovers in the greater Raleigh-Durham area! It's now official. Jacob Cerone (who is one of my Th.M. students) will be starting his beginning Greek class on January 17. Details are only a click away. Way to go, Jacobus Maximus!
Kindly note: Like all true New Testament scholars, Jacob is bearded.
12:58 PM My alma mater, Biola University in La Mirada, California, announces an opening in Intercultural Studies. Becky and I lived in La Mirada for 27 great years when I was associated with Biola. As I often tell people, Southern California is a wonderful place to live (except for the fires, floods, smog, riots, and earthquakes). Just kidding!
12:46 PM Let's come back to New Testament Greek for a second and talk about structural analysis (SA). As you may know, structural analysis is one of the ten steps I require my Greek students to learn in all of my exegesis classes. Its fascination for me as a teacher lies in its ability to provide us with a quick and easy heuristic device to help us see how a text is structured. It is hoped that drill in SA will ultimately supply a discipline once taken for granted in our schools. The application of SA is, however, very costly, both in time and energy, but on his site today Thomas Hudgins posted an outstanding video of how to perform an SA on a passage of the Greek New Testament. The text he analyses is a very special one to anyone who has ever read my essay on the discourse structure of Philippians, published in the journal Novum Testamentum. In my essay I argued that the macrostructure of the letter is found in 1:27-30 -- unity in the cause of the Gospel. I wish now that I had developed my analysis earlier in my career, but now that it's available I am happy to offer a pdf of it to anyone who requests it. The response of my students to a teacher's efforts seem to be wonderful. So, if you are just learning how to do SA in a Greek text, you might begin by taking a look at what Thomas has posted on his site. The link is called New Testament Greek and Structural Analysis. This is merely "keeping abreast" of recent advances in Koine Greek studies.
God bless all of you as you read and study your Greek New Testament.
12:36 PM Had a great lunch with my friend Alvin Reid yesterday. We talked about the information age and how we can best tap into it to share our ideas and views with others. It is truly remarkable to think that I what I share on my blog each day is read by more people than I will ever speak to personally in an entire year. If you're not blogging, start today. It's the cheapest and most effective mode of communication in the world today.
12:28 PM One of the blessings of living in this part of the country is that it's filled with Civil War sites, not least the Fredericksburg Battlefield, where a great battle took place 150 years today. The Confederate position along Marye's Heights above the town was so strong that one Southern official claimed that "a chicken could not live on that field when we open on it."
Lee, watching the battle unfold, said to Longstreet, "It is well that war is so terrible, or else we should grow too fond of it." The Union suffered 12,650 casualties during the battle, the Confederacy about 4,200. Visiting the battlefield for the first time made a deep impression on me. If you've never visited the site, do include it when you're next driving on I-95 through Virginia.
While I'm on the subject, one characteristic of our generation never ceases to amaze me. I am aware that ours is not a history-loving nation, and that only a very small proportion of our college-bred are real readers. But I can't understand why the very people who are preparing to minister in today's society bring with them such ignorance of the general history of their nation. The great majority of them know next to nothing about the Civil War, except perhaps what they have seen on screen. Very few of our students have read enough, pondered enough, or experienced enough to have even the raw materials for an intelligent view of our national history. It is truly a sad state of affairs. Little wonder we so often repeat the mistakes of the past.
11:45 AM Got time for a brief farm update?
1) I thought the donkeys could use some oats today, so I took Sheba and Dayda for a walk to the other end of the farm.
2) Here they are communing with Tolo Tolo, though do note the fence between them. I would never let the dogs in the same pasture as the donkeys, as they would probably not leave unscathed.
3) This is one of my favorite views of Maple Ridge.
But it's also a reminder that we still have plenty to do before it is up and running, including unloading that Hardy Trailer you see in front of the house. I need to get it under shelter before the really bad weather arrives.
4) As you can see, the day was perfect for working out-of-doors -- cool but not really cold, and full of bright sunshine.
5) Tomorrow we are expecting about 8 or 9 guys from SEBTS to be here to help us with various and sundry projects, so I've got our chain saws sharpened and ready for business.
I will have to miss half of the fun tomorrow as I will be at commencement saying goodbye to many a fine student.
9:59 AM Okay, so this is the second You Tube I've linked to in as many days, but this one is really worth watching. It's found at the "M Blog" and asks "What is the difference between a traditional church and a missional church?" Here's the link. I am sending the link to my church elders. Many of us in our evangelical churches know, of course, that there is something wrong about our church-centeredness. But for a radical Gospel we need a radical church. In short, we need a major paradigm shift in the way we do church. What would happen to our churches if we stripped away the institutionalism? One thing is for sure: Evangelism would begin to take on new dimensions. We would begin to rediscover the New Testament model of every-member ministry. You say, "It can't be done." I say, Let's give it a try. Christianity has always had a remarkable self-renewing capacity. The new wine will always find new wineskins. And it's NOT too late for your church, or mine.
So give the You Tube a look-see and perhaps share it with others. Then join me in praying for a great moving of the hand of God in our midst.
8:54 AM The Oklahoma Baptist Messenger recently published an excellent discussion of the various ways we can interpret the last book of the Bible. The issue is called Exploring the Book of Revelation.
It contains essays by such scholars as Craig Blaising of Southwestern Seminary and my colleague Ben Merkle of Southeastern, not to mention one of our grads, Alan Bandy. Nice serendipity: In the comments section, Alan describes his desire to edit a volume on Revelation "that includes Asian (Chinese, Korean, etc.), African, European, North American, and South American (Latino) perspectives on theology, hermeneutics, and application." A worthwhile goal indeed!
By the way, Alan, in reference to your blog name: I don't think Redivius is a word in Latin. Did you mean Redivivus? As in a "renewed" or "revived" version of your website?
Of course, what do I know? :-)
Glad to see you blogging, friend!
8:38 AM Odds and ends ...
1) I just read Michael Kibbe's review of David Allen's defense of the Lukan authorship of Hebrews. See if you don't agree with Michael's conclusion. The evidence, in my opinion, is conclusive: Direct Lukan authorship is excluded by the external evidence, which itself has been greatly misinterpreted. (See Origen on the Authorship of Hebrews.)
Take that, David!
2) Quote of the day (Do Microphones Encourage Poor Preaching?):
I have yet to find a mike I like.
3) Thinking about making a New Year's resolution? Think again.
4) Work on the guest house continues, and I just had to show you the lovely new siding on the south porch.
5) Students, I will be working on grades today and tomorrow. I hope in the Lord to have your semester grades posted to Moodle by 1:00 pm on Friday. Praise God for another great semester.
Next class? Greek 1 during J-term. Hope to see many of you then. If you need a copy of our syllabus, let me know.
Wednesday, December 12
6:05 PM A little of this and a little of that ....
1) Becky's been painting farm signs, a good "sign" in itself that she's been feeling a bit better this week. We hope to place these brightly-colored signs around the farm along the paths and roadways to guide guests and visitors as they enjoy the great outdoors here at Rosewood.
2) As we drove home tonight from Wake Forest, Nigusse and I listened to a fascinating report on All Things Considered called Land Creatures Might Not Have Come From The Sea. It seems that a scientist has had the audacity to challenge the scientific status quo about evolution. In fact, he stands it on its head. The earliest life forms, he argues, were landlubbers, not sea creatures. Now if you take the time to listen to the piece, you will be treated to a great peroration by a scientist who says, "This view challenges everything we have published in our textbooks for ages. It's like having a death in the family. Scientists everywhere will begin to go through the grieving process, beginning with denial."
Now, the application to Gospel source criticism should be obvious to everyone. For decades we have been told that Mark was our earliest Gospel, and that Matthew, a non-eyewitness, used Mark's account to write his own Gospel. If this theory were ever to be falsified, it would entail the rewriting of about 99 percent of all commentaries on the Synoptic Gospels, since they are based on Markan priority. But guess what? Scientists can be wrong, whether they are biologists or biblicists. I am not a prophet or the son of a prophet. I even work for a non-"prophet" organization. Yet I will make a prognostication here. I predict that 100 years from now the scholarly guild will have admitted it was wrong about the origins of the Synoptic Gospels. This will happen, not because of anything that is happening within the current scholarly guild, which tends to travel in lock-step, but because our wonderful students are willing to heed the call of "Ad fontes!" and will begin to question the status quo, much like is happening in the secular sciences today. As far as I'm concerned, this can't happen quickly enough. Markan priority is dead (as I have argued in this book). I say, let the grieving begin, and let's move beyond the denial phase.
3) Greek students -- and you non-Greek students as well -- you simply must stop what you're doing right now and watch this You Tube that Thomas Hudgins just posted on his blog. It shows one of my students reciting, verbatim and perfectly, what I call "the heart of Philippians" -- Phil. 2:1-11. It will blow you away. My thanks to David for doing such a great job of memorizing this passage, and to all the other students who participated in this optional exercise in our Greek 3 class (Nigusse included).
P.S. For all of you Living Koine purists out there, I might mention that David is using the Southern Galilean pronunciation (aka, Kentuckian).
4) Mark Stevens has published a wonderful post called The righteous will grow like a cedar of Lebanon. He writes:
Cedars are exceedingly tough trees. They are immovable. We've got several on the farm. Here's one of my favorites:
This tree has survived hailstorms and hurricanes and is still as tough as a rock. Great character, as Mark reminds us, is not developed at pleasure reports. We do not become strong in our sleep. Great soldiers are not developed in the classroom but on the battlefield. It takes a grindstone to sharpen a dull axe. Students, please remember that. School is just school; it's not your proving ground. In this shallow and superficial day, let's remember that great athletes are made not by merely hearing lectures about the game but by getting out onto the playing field. Progress comes only through adversity, which toughness us up and makes us like cedars.
Thanks, Mark, for that post. It was a good reminder to this weakling that my strength comes from the Lord. I am nothing, but I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Tuesday, December 11
8:08 AM So it's the end of the semester. (Notice how everything starts with "So" nowadays?) Like the end of the calendar year, it calls for reflection. It's been another semester of God's goodness. His grace ought to melt our hearts. What is worse than ingratitude? Now, another semester past means another one to come. There is a new challenge to be accepted, new responsibilities to be greeted, a new chapter in the book of our lives to be written. Sometimes I feel like I am still working on the "introduction." But write it we must. What matters is that we follow our Writing Guide. If we follow the Scriptures and not our manmade thinking, God will honor our efforts and the new year will be filled with His fragrance.
Students, thank you for a job well done. But do not let your successes make you complacent about what still has to be accomplished. Press toward the mark. Do not postpone to the resurrection what can and should be done in the present mortal body.
Blessings on you all,
Monday, December 10
8:08 PM So proud of all my students, current and former. One of them decided to study in Europe. He's recently updated his blog and it's well worth your reading. "I constantly thank God. He has given me a work I love so much." (Lottie Moon.) I could not have said it better.
8:01 PM And the winner is:
Jayson Ramiscal of Wake Forest, North Carolina
Jayson just happens to be a student at SEBTS. Jayson, the book will be available for pick up any time in my office. Congratulations! For the rest of you, here's a brief description of my Doktorvater. Yes, the gentleman pictured below is none other than Bo Reicke, my major professor at Basel. Enjoy!
For more, see My Academic Journey: Confessions of a Limping Greek Teacher.
6:50 PM We just pulled into our driveway and unloaded the groceries from Sam's Club. Our outing today was blessed in every way. It's easy to take for granted one's health care providers, but not when you've got the best. I honestly can't say enough about Becky's oncologist. Today she assured us of her complete support regardless of which route we take treatment-wise. In the meantime, the reality of where we are in our journey is starting to sink in. I mean really sink in. We've come to the end of one long road and are about to travel down another. The truth is, we've never gone this way before, yet we are now more convinced than ever that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Not cancer, not weariness, not frustration or heartache, not vomiting, not trips to the hospital. We are more grateful than ever for His love and care and for your prayers and concern. On the drive home Becky and I talked about the alternatives we are facing. We hope to make a final decision by this Thursday. It feels like a lifetime since we began this journey together. And we are going to finish it together. My only prayer is that we finish as well as started. That said, I'll keep you informed as the Lord gives us greater guidance.
And now, on a completely different note, did you read today the wonderful news that the Jamaicans now have their very first Patois Bible? Deep breath. That is so fantastic I hardly know what to say.
Amen and amen to that. I can't help but think that God is high-fiving just now. Yet there's a somber side to the story.
Can you believe that? No use spinning elaborate explanations about this. This is nothing less than linguistic chauvinism. Friends, no one needs to be ashamed of their patois. No one. "Patois is not potent enough to be able to carry the meaning of the Gospel effectively." Sorry. No language has yet been discovered into which the Word of God could not be translated. The last laugh will be on the skeptics. So, to all my Jamaican brothers and sisters, I say: I rejoice with you! Take the Bible for what it is. Rest your weary souls on it. Let God speak to you through it. He is eager to communicate to you in your heart language. Glory to His Name!
Finally, we had an amazing Skype with Ethiopia today. I've been wanting to tell you about it all day. A leading Muslim leader with whom I had been sharing the Lord for 5 years came to faith last summer and is to be baptized in a couple of weeks. We sat there, staring at each other, not believing that we could actually speak with other, smiles on our faces as wide as the Rift Valley.
As I looked into my computer screen I saw Jesus staring back at me in an African man's eyes. Please, friends, tell me over and over again that the Gospel is worth it -- worth the discomfort and the malaria and the deprivations and the expenses and the sacrifice. I want to sit and write for hours. I want to type page after page describing what we talked about today -- me and my convert, Becky and her dear friend Aberash, Nigusse's fiancée, a church elder.
Did you know, for example, that the church in this town had a huge conference over the weekend with thousands of believers in attendance and at one point everyone stopped just to pray for our Becky? It's probably a good thing I have to go and cook supper right now; otherwise I'd be telling you story after story. Outside, the world might be going to hell in a hand basket, Egypt might be on the verge of a civil war, our nation might be going over the fiscal cliff, but life for me right now is nothing but exuberance and joy. The joy of the Lord.
How about you? Are you trusting Him? I know your life is tough. Believe me, I know. Larry Crabb once put it perfectly when he said, "In even the happiest Christian life there are deep pockets of incurable pain." That's true of you, and that's true of me. No, you will never get over your pain and heartache. Never. You will never be a finished product this side of heaven. You are part of the broken body of Christ, but it's a body that truly cares. He, and it, are enough to sustain you. Can I get an Amen?
So that's the news up to the moment.
P.S. After supper I'll put your names in a hat and draw the winner of today's mystery person quiz. You still have time to enter if you want.
8:34 AM Somewhere online today I saw a notice that said, "Study the Bible in Oxford next summer." Well, if you can't make it to Oxford, Wake Forest beckons. I plan on teaching beginning Greek there before I go on sabbatical next academic year. Would love to have you in class. My promise to you? If we both do our jobs well, I promise that you will be able to read your Greek New Testament with the use of a lexicon.
P.S. Wake Forest is only 30 minutes from Oxford. North Carolina, that is :)
7:53 AM Egyptian tanks are guarding the presidential palace in Cairo these days.
This photo makes me think of Paul's brilliant military metaphor in Phil. 4:7: "God's peace will guard/garrison your emotions and thoughts in Christ Jesus." Those tanks are powerful. No less powerful is God's military hardware -- prayer and thanksgiving. If B and I are experiencing God's peace today, could it because so many are praying on our behalf? God's peace and our prayers cannot be separated. Both are His gifts to us. Prayer always allays anxiety.
Jesus said, "Without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). But is that really true? There are many things I can do without Him. It's possible to teach classes and build churches and preach and pray and do a lot of good things without Him. What our Lord means is that we can nothing that is acceptable to Him apart from Him. We must abide in Him if we are to abound for Him. My greatest fear today is that I will do things apart from Him. So when you pray, please ask God to show us what pleases Him. Only what is produced in our hearts by His Spirit's leading is acceptable to Him.
I'm learning it slowly, but learn it I will: Without Him ... NOTHING.
7:28 AM SEBTS students, did you know that the seminary library now allows you to pay your overdue fines in non-perishable food items?
Let's see ... I could use some medium salsa, some canned tuna, not to mention a can of sweet pickles ....
7:16 AM I'm launching yet another contest today, for all of us to enjoy. Do you know who this man is?
If you can correctly identify him you will win a free copy my book Interpreting the New Testament: Essays on Methods and Issues (B & H Academic). Now, this is the first time I've ever given this book away. But I think you will find it extremely useful in your studies of the New Testament. Chapters include overviews of textual criticism, source criticism, redaction criticism, sociological criticism, discourse analysis, Greek linguistics, the use of the Old Testament in the New, interpreting the Synoptic Gospels, foundations of New Testament theology, and many others. My co-editor, David Dockery, is now the president of an outstanding Christian university in Tennessee that is known for its balanced approach to higher criticism.
So ... who is this distinguished-looking gentleman? I'll announce the winner tonight at 9:00 pm EST, so der Herr will.
P.S. Non-bloggers are welcome to play along.
P.P.S. David Dockery's recent presidential chapel message is well worth listening to: Dockery cites famous missionaries as examples of cross-cultural gospel engagement.
P.P.P.S. If there is more than one correct answer, the winner will be chosen by divine election.
Sunday, December 9
6:32 PM Okay, so this is the last picture I will post today. Promise.
We're snuggled up with a book this evening, enjoying our fireplace and listening to the rain falling outside. Tomorrow is a big day. But no sense worrying about it. Tomorrow will take care of itself. Right now, it's time to rest in His sovereignty.
Ice cream, anyone?
6:20 PM "Pst, Becky ...."
"I love you."
6:08 PM Today I arranged the purchase of the two young bulls you see in the right of this photo from a neighboring farmer. They'll be ready for butchering later next year.
They're a mixture of Angus (1/2), Hereford (1/4), and Brahmin (1/4). Although Becky and I have cut back considerably on our red meat consumption, others we know haven't. Plus, it will be nice to have the guest house stocked with steaks and hamburger for whomever the Lord leads to stay there. Becky says we should name the bulls after the letters in the Greek alphabet.
So, say hello to "Alpha" and "Beta."
6:00 PM Christmas has always had something to do with gift-giving. The gift of God to us -- His Son -- and our gifts to Him (our bodies, Rom. 12:1-2). Since we've just studied Philippians in our Greek 3 class, I was wondering: what gifts did the Philippians give to Paul? There were three, as I see it. First, they gave themselves. Second, they gave their service. And finally, they gave their substance. Self, service, substance, that was the expression of their partnership in the Gospel. This Christmas, let's return to Calvary. It was there the Savior gave Himself, His service, and even His substance (2 Cor. 8:9). Putting my "self" to death is the only way to rediscover the cross of Christ. It is the only way to exchange my life for His. Then, all that I have is His. It is no longer my will that matters, but the Master's.
And that is the reason for the season.
1:12 PM Just back from The Hill. Here's the happy couple.
Rejoice with us!
9:50 AM Good news! Becky's coming to the fellowship this morning! But I've got a problem. Her stomach is still very tender from the surgery, and many people are going to want to hug her. I mean, hug her. Shall I stand guard over her? Shall I post a note on her dress, "Light hugs only please"? Shall I let things be? I'll let you know how things go :)
Needless to say, we are jazzed to be taking her to church again.
9:45 AM Well, Nigusse will never be the same. Today I introduced him to "eggs-in-a-hole," a concoction Becky used to prepare for our family years ago. Like killing two birds with one stone.
Do yall have this Down Under?
8:56 AM A few months ago I had the privilege of leading someone to Christ in a foreign land. Here is a letter I sent him today.
7:59 AM The brand new Martin Bucer Seminar in München will be holding its first classes next month. For information, go here. What makes this school unique?
7:50 AM Planning a visit to Zürich soon? Here are 9 things to see while you're there, including the famous minster.
7:42 AM "I will lift up my eyes to the hills." Whenever I read Psalm 121:1, I always think of the powerful Koolau Range, known to those of us who lived in Kailua as the "Pali."
The Island of Oahu was formed from the coalescing of the Koolau Range with the Waianae Range. Several large bays receive runoff from Oahu's streams, including Pearl Harbor, Mamala Bay, Kailua Bay, and Kaneohe Bay. Deep valleys and interfluvial ridges are everywhere to be seen today. Growing up, there was never a day when I did not consciously marvel at the handiwork of God, even as I do today whenever I look out the windows of Bradford Hall.
Thank you, God, for these small blessings of life. Too often I take them for granted.
7:18 AM Thanks to all who wrote to say they are fasting and praying for us. Becky and I are ready to plead, not "Lord, bless us," or even "Lord, use us," but "Lord, glorify Yourself in us, whatever it takes, whatever happens to us."
May His will be done.
7:02 AM The fault of many heroes of tragedy, as Aristotle pointed out many years ago, is the excess of a virtue as well as the presence of a vice. I confess that I thought of this axiom when I read this morning Steve Scott's Neo-Calvinism in the Rear View Mirror. Steve demurs:
The movement Steve has left behind seems to hypnotize some today, just as it hypnotized many in the past. Few utter this conviction aloud nowadays, however. Like Steve, I dream of a Christianity that is less man-centered (I follow Arminius, I follow Calvin). God is not looking for men and women who can show themselves strong on God's behalf but for men and women through whom God can show Himself strong. It takes no talent scout to locate such a person. The distinguishing mark is a perfect heart toward God and a kind and gentle heart toward one's fellow man. Meanwhile, we are not to be conformed to this world (and the world can often include church culture) but transformed by the renewing of our minds, not conformed nor unconformed, but transformed so that we prove in our daily experience the will of God. The way is by the cross, going outside the camp and bearing His reproach.
Saturday, December 8
9:23 PM None of my parents' children showed the least signs of precocity, least of all their youngest son, but one thing I did have going for me during my growing up years in Hawaii was an insatiable appetite for reading. There were always plenty of books in our house, but none could match the exquisite attraction of the Hardy Boys series.
I remember being transported from my bedroom in Kailua to the coves and forests of New England through stories more terrifying than the wild boars that inhabited the rain forests of Oahu. Today I dislike novels and fiction in general, but in those days I would sometimes feign illness so as to be able to stay in my bedroom and solve yet another mystery, along with my good friends Frank and Joe.
So it is today. Whenever I get my hands on a really good book, especially one that has never commanded the public attention that I think it deserves, I am all the more happy to recommended it to others. I've mentioned this book many times on this blog, but Killer Angels by Michael Shaara is as exciting as a novel gets. The first time I read it, it tumbled the world upside down for me. In those evenings when I am too tired or bored to read anything else, I still find serene refuge in its soiled pages.
If you want a book that humanizes the marble heroes of the great battle we call Gettysburg, Killer Angels is your book -- gritty and real-like. See if you don't agree.
6:18 PM Arthur Sido has published a eulogy of sort, and you have to admire the man for his utter honesty. I have gone through a similar transition in my own thinking, so I take some grim satisfaction in knowing that I am not alone in my pilgrimage. With equal fervor, we shall now be reading wonderful reports of farm life from Arthur's pen, and well should we, for there is little in this life more entrancing than the wonders of nature. So I am thankful that Arthur will continue blogging, with eyes and ears sharpened by his sojourn from the suburbs to the ex-burbs.
6:08 PM Everyone here is glad Becky is feeling better. Especially everyone's stomachs. Tonight she cooked "Catfish Creole" for supper in honor of Stevie Melton (whence cometh the catfish).
Which got us talking about New Orleans and gumbo and the French influence in America, etc., with Nigusse. This in turn got us yakking about which states are famous for which foods. Louisiana: Gumbo. Texas: Bar-B-Q (the real thing, not the nasty stuff they serve around here). And finally Hawaii. That was a hard one, but eventually we decided that lau-laus, lomi-lomi salmon, and "shave ice" are about the closest things to delicacies one can find in the Islands. Not to mention cuttlefish.
Man, makes ya wanna get back to Hawaii.
5:24 PM The answer to yesterday's geo-quiz? The famous Burnside Bridge at the Sharpsburg/Antietam Battlefield.
And the winner (whose name was drawn randomly out of a hat):
Matt Wicklein of Arizona.
The book will go out in Tuesday's mail, Matt.
Thanks for playing, everyone. We'll do it again soon.
5:04 PM On my list of things-to-do today: move donkeys to new pasture. Which meant that I first had to walk the fence line (again) to check for breaks, repair any broken spots, and make sure all the gates were working properly. That done, a bucket with a few oats in it -- and voila! -- donkeys are moved.
We had them on about 15 acres of grass that, as you can see, had been pretty much eaten down.
Today they are enjoying about 5 acres of lush orchard grass/ fescue mix next to one of our farm ponds, so they are completely self-contained.
The winter has been so mild that we have not had to feed hay yet, but I have a feeling that those days are coming to an end, probably sooner than later.
Last year, because of Nigusse's arrival, God spared us (and everyone else in the Piedmont) a severe winter. (Nigusse can't stand the cold.) This year, however, I have the feeling that Nigusse is going to have tough it out.
8:42 AM Speaking of dad, did you know that his website now has more than 800 books on it? 863 to be exact. Dad scanned each one himself.
If you know an Ethiopian who hasn't been to his site yet, send him or her to Good Amharic Books today. It is a real treasure trove.
8:23 AM A heads-up: You only have until January 13 to see the Dead Sea Scrolls at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth. It is worth a visit, as the governor of Texas found out recently. My father-in-law I visited the exhibit back in September and were not disappointed.
8:11 AM In an interesting lecture, Nigel Wright (Spurgeon's College, London) discusses John Howard Yoder's book Body Politic. Part and parcel of the discussion concerns every-member ministry. This is not at all surprising, since Yoder was a modern-day Anabaptist. Interestingly, this notion of mutual participation, this dialogical liberty, was described by Zwingli as "the rule of Paul," even though it never became a part of the national church in Switzerland. It would be up to Zwingli's erstwhile disciples, the Anabaptists, to flesh it out. In other words, the Zwinglians and the Anabaptists did not answer the same question differently. They asked different questions. And the key was the question of biblical authority rather than adherence to different theological traditions.
I think it would be helpful to recall this "rule of Paul" whenever we read and study Paul's letters today. Clearly, highly participatory meetings were not what the Magisterial Reformers intended when they argued for the priesthood of all believers. As a result, the "radicals" of the Reformation were driven into isolation. Certainly, today there is a need for such radical Christianity -- the term "radical" referring not to specific societal issues but to the degree of thoroughness with which one attempts to implement reform. Paul's appeal to every-member ministry offers an alternative model of community. Paul isn't just teaching church polity. He's unpacking bigger things. He asks us to remove the handcuffs that limit service to paid professionals. He invites kingdom citizens to become blind to status differences. He teaches that pastors are not to monopolize ministry but to equip others for works of service. He urges us to see others as more important than ourselves.
But I give the last word to Nigel Wright:
7:51 AM Brother Drewe has got me stirred up this morning, in a good way :)
Is your website an encouragement to others (like Drewe's)? Or does it drag people down? For what it's worth, my theme verse for DBO is 1 Cor. 14:3. I don't live up to it, but it's my goal.
Friday, December 7
7:35 PM Here I sit, more stuffed than a Strasbourg goose. After our delicious supper, Nigusse decided to recite Phil. 2:1-11 to his mom. (Students in my Greek Syntax and Exegesis course can opt out of taking the final translation exam and instead recite to me that passage.) Here he is hard at work, with Becky correcting his diction.
Just another evening at the Blacks' farm.
Right now I am planning on watching the ending of Tora! Tora! Tora! along with enjoying my all-time favorite ice cream flavor when growing up in Hawaii, orange sherbet/vanilla combo.
6:50 PM This BBC essay on teaching dogs how to drive in New Zealand elicited this response from Becky: "Good idea. Just think, if you're unable to take me to the hospital, maybe Sheba or Dayda can do it instead."
6:40 PM Was speaking with a student recently about doctorates. I had two cautions:
1) Be sure to steer clear of diploma mills. Christian leaders are not above pursuing fake or questionable doctorates. There's "Dr." Fred Price, "Dr." T. D. Jakes, "Dr." Joyce Meyer, "Dr." Kenneth Copeland, and "Dr." Benny Hinn (see Name It and Frame It). If you're going to get a Ph.D., get it from an accredited institution of higher learning. It will mean months of very intense labor, but the rewards are certainly worth it.
2) When you eventually do acquire a doctorate, don't flaunt it. I told the student about a freshly-minted Ph.D. whose online name is now ___________, Ph.D. (Duke). Understandable for a new graduate, but completely unnecessary. In spite of, or possibly because of, your erudition, people may eventually sit up and listen when you have something to say. The good news is that eventually you will grow out of your role as a diploma dilettante.
So do take these ideas to heart, and you will make this professor happy.
Dave Black (D.Theol., Basel)
6:18 PM Somebody please help me: the house is beginning is fill up with drool. Becky is cooking supper tonight, and she's making her one-and-only curry chicken with peaches. I am a blessed man.
6:12 PM "So dad, you said there were a lot of places you wanted to take me before I return to Ethiopia. Where are we going to start?" Good question, Nigusse. But a driving tour of the U.S. will certainly include a stop at this historic site.
If you think you know where it is, write me, and your name will put into the hat for a drawing, the winner receiving a free copy of my latest book, Paul, Apostle of Weakness. I'll announce the winner tomorrow night at this time.
P.S. If you already have that book and win, you may request a substitute :)
P.P.S. Be sure to include your mailing address when you write.
6:02 PM Heaven is real. Hell is real. That's why Jesus had such an urgency about His work. He could be homeless, hungry, could face danger and even rejection. At this season of the year, may we learn to see the lost world as Jesus sees it.
5:46 PM Tonight I have a special request to make of my readers.
As you know, within the past few months Becky has suffered a stroke, stomach perforation, and blood clot, all cancer/chemo induced. We are at a crossroad, as I said the other day, one that may take us away from traditional medical treatments to treatments that are non-traditional yet more holistic. The Bible says that if we lack wisdom we are simply to ask God and He will give it to us. Well did Spurgeon say that a fish might fret about enough water in the ocean before a Christian need be troubled over the sufficiency of God's grace. This takes care of a lot of questions that one could raise about illness. But not all of them. We still need spiritual guidance for the very important decision we will be making after we meet with Becky's lead oncologist next Monday at 2:30.
So here is what I would like to request from you:
Will you, between now and next Monday at 2:30, fast and pray for us? That is, will you forego one meal to pray for us?
All we ask is that we stay in the path of His will. He will keep us going as long as we need to be going, but in which direction? Our citizenship is in heaven from which we await a Savior who will change our bodies like unto His own. Meanwhile, we glory in His cross and our identification with Him. And He tells us, according to your faith be it unto you. If He does not direct our steps, we are truly lost indeed.
If you do decide to fast and pray for one meal this weekend, will you let us know? No, I am not going to post anyone's name online. I just want Becky to see that she (and we) aren't alone.
Grateful for your prayers,
5:28 PM From The Jesus Paradigm:
Wow. The purpose of the Anabaptist movement was more than just to recall Christians to their biblical roots. I'm glad they did that. But just as importantly, they sought to correct the notion of their contemporaries that the Great Commission had been fulfilled by Christ's original apostles. It was this emphasis that explains the contempt, and even disgust, that some of the magisterial Reformers felt for the missionary program of the Dissenters. No words of Jesus meant more to the Anabaptists than the Great Commission. They believed that the true church was obliged to take that commission seriously. We are obliged, I think, to do no less today.
5:18 PM Maple Ridge update:
1) We've now installed the ceiling boards in the dining room, to lend it that "antique" look.
2) The kitchen window has been framed in...
3) .... as has the bathroom door. Still need to hang the door, which, by the way, is made out of a product called wood. Real wood.
Next up: floor boards.
12:50 PM A brother needs some help. I am having trouble uploading to my website these days. Sometimes I just can't get through, at other times I get this error message:
Any advice? Might the trouble be on the other end, with my web host? Someone suggested I use "passive FTP." Didn't seem to help, though.
12:36 PM I find it somewhat amusing to see the ceramic idols we install in our sanctuaries at Christmas time. Why, even the Pope knows that the magi weren't present at the manger. But history is simply repeating itself. Jacob met God at Beth-El (House of God). Years later, Jeroboam set up his idols there, reasoning "It's too much for you to go up to Jerusalem" (1 Kings 12:28). Still later, Hosea would call the place Beth-aven, House of Idols. Interesting transition -- all the way from House of God to House of Idols. Christians today begin with a lovely soft spot in their hearts for Christmas, only to end up attaching deeper significance to the season than to the things of God. We need Hoseas to keep calling us back to Beth-El, to God Himself.
(Not just speaking about manger scenes, mind you. Anything -- a church building, a "cause," a pet doctrine -- can become a Beth-aven in our lives. Yes, even our "scholarship" and quests for the "hysterical" Jesus.)
8:35 AM Our new Greek Portal will, of course, include a section on the Living Language Approach to learning the biblical languages, and an essay that is certain to be included is Robert Holmstedt's Biblical Hebrew Pedagogy. (Yes, the essay is about Hebrew, but its implications include teaching Koine Greek.) The approach is well-summarized in this statement from the essay:
The result? A "three-year sequence, at the minimum."
No teacher of Greek or Hebrew, I venture to say, would question the logic of a three-year sequence. I confess, however, that I get most students for three semesters (at most). Many of them, naturally, have no particular interest in linguistics per se, and elect to take the class because such courses are required for graduation. Once inside the classroom, however, I find that most of them are willing to meet me halfway. Of course, the real work of the class has to be done by the students themselves; my little lectures are designed merely to assist in their intelligible approach to the language. If, then, reading proficiency comes only after conversational proficiency, I have been a huge failure in my profession. The accepted convention has been that I do my job and the students do theirs, and then we are quits. It seems to me now, having been in the classroom for some 36 years, that this system works only for students who are as idealistic as their professor. Thus it is with delight that I watch the younger generation of pedagogues cross swords with their elders. The younger faculty include some brilliant investigators and teachers, and there is surely more substantial work to be done in an epoch that is generally supposed to be more tolerant of new ideas and approaches than the one in which I came up.
7:54 AM Care to take a sneak peek at our new Greek Portal?
7:38 AM Quote of the day (Henry C. Vedder, The Reformation in Germany, p. 345):
The "they" of course, are the Anabaptists. The "only real reformers"? I quite agree. We make the mistake of thinking that radical Christianity is something extra, unusual, occasional, and irregular. My friends, the Anabaptists were not suffering from a fever; they were enjoying normal spiritual health. It may take a crisis for the modern church to return to that.
7:22 AM Today marks the anniversary of my generation's September 11. The surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, will always be a date that will "live in infamy." If you only read one story about today's commemorations, please take a minute and read From Pearl Harbor to Calvary. It's the story of Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, who led the attack that balmy Sunday morning.
The airman ended up becoming a committed follower of the Prince of Peace and a warm-hearted Christian missionary. In an era of Osama bin Ladens, Fuchida's story shows how the Gospel can indeed transform a life from the inside out. More than anything, it's an awesome reminder of the power, grace, and sovereignty of God. Read it, then share it with a friend today.
Thursday, December 6
8:24 PM Brothers and sisters, rejoice with me over this wonderful story of God's healing hand: Schreiners display strong faith amid tragedy. The "Schreiners" here are, of course, my SBTS colleague Tom and his wife Diane, who is recovering from a very serious head injury.
Tom, you took the words right out of my mouth :)
God bless you both!
8:13 PM Delightful post here from our favorite Munich Doktorand: Greek, with a twist. Andy writes:
As you know, one reason I had been drawn to Basel was its reputation for scholarship, not only modern but ancient (think Erasmus). I well recall the first day of class in Bernhard Wyss's course in "How to Read Greek Minuscule Manuscripts." The students (all three of us) found the class interesting as we were often called upon to recite Greek out loud. I suppose my fellow students felt very sorry for me because I spoke Greek with marbles in my mouth. Of course they were right (at least in their own eyes), but I was not ready yet for what the poet Sill had called "the universal point of view." Hence I persisted to speak in my funny American accent. I suppose I got away with it because they assumed it was just an American thing to do. Wyss's course in that wonderful year of study afforded excellent drill in linguistics, and sometimes much more than that. (Yes indeed, one of the payoffs was our visit to the university library to see an original 1516 Novum Instrumenti of Erasmus.) I recall looking with awe on the ability of my professor to unscramble these 9th century squiggles. How were we young fellows to know whether we, in turn, would ever be dowered with that gift of reading? We did the best we could, and in the end we all left the class friends.
Thank you, Andy, for these delightful little glimpses into life in Munich. And so glad to see you are taking the hurdles you encounter in stride.
7:10 PM Quote of the day (Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon, Resident Aliens, pp. 170-171):
6:55 PM Michael Halcomb reviews The Handy Guide to New Testament Greek. What do you think? Would you use this book in your teaching? Personal life?
5:32 PM I live in community. I can't think of a better word to describe my life these days. I've just spent the better part of 3 years coming to realize just how much this community means to me. People keep asking me how I'm doing. Well, I'm just one actor playing a small role in this incredible drama with a cast of thousands. What area of my life is unaffected?
Take the farm. I am not alone in my work here. Good thing, too. Having 123 acres to care for is not easy. When people ask me what it's like to have a farm, I say to them, "Get used to living simply, and then be prepared to work like crazy." But I am not alone. Time and again, students and friends volunteer a day or two to work with me. The mundane duties take on a whole new life when people do. When they leave I just stand there and shake my head, a huge smile on my face. To think that there are people who mesh so perfectly with what we are seeking to accomplish here at Rosewood Farm. This kind of camaraderie can only come from Above.
Or take all the problems we've had this year with our desktops. Honestly, there were days when I wanted to quit my online presence altogether. Just not worth the hassle. But when I needed help, the community was there for me.
Or how about Becky's cancer journey. I'm not sure this is news to anybody, but being a caregiver takes time. Lots of time. Sometimes it takes away from other responsibilities. But whenever I've needed a sub for one of my classes, God provided. Every single time. It has been the most beautiful to thing watch, really.
And so that's that. I wouldn't trade the past 3 years for anything. I've learned what Paul meant when he referred to the peace that passes all understanding. I've learned to trust God (and others) when everything around me seemed to be falling apart. I'm coming to realize all over again that love is not just a warm fuzzy feeling but something so incredibly painful that it forces you to your knees over and over again.
So tell me, if you can: am I right to extol community? Is all of life not meant to be shared?
As Becky went off to bed just now, she whispered: "Thank you, honey, for taking such good care of me." In other words, thank you being part of my community.
And that's why I won't stop singing.
4:26 PM Just got back home. I am exhausted in body and spirit, but I just have to tell you that all went well today at the hospital. UNC is a heart-wrenching place, so when people see a patient who is smiling and upbeat they sit up and take notice. I feel like a broken record, but it really is amazing to hear people say, "If only all our patients were like you." That one statement puts everything back into perspective. Instead of being a curse, cancer can be a blessing when we storm the gates of heaven on behalf of others, seeking to minister even as we are being ministered to.
I so appreciate your prayers. Please don't stop. Today I witnessed a miracle. Any time you witness a testament to God's grace, you've seen a miracle.
6:10 AM On the calendar for today at UNC:
So grateful to God for insurance and good health care. Also grateful for your partnership on the journey. The lone coal on the hearth soon grows cold. We are members of one another and always need the prayers, the help of other Christians.
Wednesday, December 5
8:20 PM Did you know that Couples Who Pray Together Stay Together? It's also beneficial to read Scripture together. Currently Bec and I going through 2 Corinthians. What a blessing that's been.
8:17 PM Here's another great quote from Jacob Cerone:
Read The Church Fathers -- and then read the Church Fathers.
8:02 PM Guess what? Becky's been writing again. Her latest essay is called His Love, My Joy. Enjoy!
6:52 PM Why do a doctorate at SEBTS? Bruce Ashford suggests at least one reason.
6:46 PM Last night I worked through all 900 or so pages of Craig Keener's new commentary on Acts. That is, the first volume (which runs only through Acts 2:47). It is vintage Keener: informed, serious, sometimes humorous, and always challenging.
This thought struck me while reading the commentary (though I don't recall it being mentioned specifically by Craig): Luke writes the book of Acts (among other reasons) to document the spread of the church from Jerusalem to Rome through the work of the apostles (to be sure) but also through the ministry of everyday believers (as in Antioch). The latter were not specially "called to the ministry." They were not professional missionaries. Yet God used them mightily to help spread His church throughout the world.
Here's my point. Luke not only writes about this. He got involved personally. Remember the famous "we" passages? That's Luke speaking. He was there. He was contributing. What a glorious truth. Luke was a physician, but a physician that God could use. There is no place in His band for those who are not willing to "give up everything and follow me."
This leads to an obvious question: How can one be a professional teacher of the New Testament and not be personally involved in God's work of evangelism? To put it another way: missional Christianity is not something merely to be taught in the classroom. It is to be modeled for our students. That's why I was so jazzed to meet with a colleague yesterday who will be taking his first international mission trip next spring. He will be plugging into a work that I've been involved with for years. He's already caught the bug. And I know he'll return completely changed. I know it. The more we find ourselves praying and giving and sending – and then actually going – the more excited we will be to labor together in God's work in this world.
So I repeat: Why should New Testament scholars settle for safety or success when the body of truth they teach requires them to live lives that are used by God to change the world? Sure, go ahead and schedule your next ETS or SBL paper. Nothing wrong with that. But nothing makes the New Testament come alive for our students as much as when they see us getting personally involved in the marvelous, messy work of cross-cultural ministry. Remember the book of Philippians? It's all about partnering in the Gospel. Friend, the church in Asia (or Africa, or the Middle East) needs you, and you need it. Worldwide Christianity is a divine mosaic. Each piece needs the other. Westerners have a lot to learn from the other pieces. Africa is the fastest-growing Christian continent in the world. Have you ever been there? If not, why not? I'm told that if the world were a small town of 1,000 inhabitants, it would include 564 Asians. Where in Asia have you been? Every time I travel to Asia or Africa or the Middle East, I marvel at the marvelous multi-cultural nature of the Body of Christ. I think Doctor Luke must have felt the same way when he described the growth of Christianity in his own world.
May we get caught up – every last one of us – in the work of our global God. If you need some tips on where the Lord could use your gifts as a teacher, shoot me an email. I'm here to help you. As our cultural blinders begin to fall off, we might just catch a vision for laboring together in this vast world of His.
6:33 PM I have an important announcement to make. For a long time my colleague Maurice Robinson and I have talked about holding another major scholarly conference on campus. Well, I am pleased to report that as of today we now have the official go-ahead to hold a symposium on the Pericope Adulterae (John 7:53-8:11) on campus in the spring of 2014. Today Mo and I decided on the speakers (there will be 5, including the good Dr. Robinson) and the schedule.
And get this: SEBTS students will be able to attend the conference for class credit. More details to follow, but I thought I should alert everyone now. The campus of Southeastern Seminary is gorgeous year round, but springtime is uniquely beautiful in the North Carolina Piedmont. Stay tuned for more as soon as we confirm the conference speakers, all of whom, by the way, are published authors on this topic.
6:22 PM Good news! Yesterday Bob Cole and I finished putting together the syllabus for our LXX class for the spring semester. It has now been posted to Campus Net and Moodle. I think you will be excited when you see the passages we've selected for translation and discussion. (Of course, this includes Psalms 1-2 -- a necessary nod to Bob's interests.) We're looking forward to another great class, Lord willing.
6:13 PM My thanks to each student who presented during our 1 Thessalonians class today. Talk about feeling like an hour ahead of the hounds.
Kudos and congratulations, guys and gals. Looking forward to next week's presentations as well.
Tuesday, December 4
5:54 AM No surprises here: Millennials Support Online Education. The bottom line? Affordability. Makes sense to me.
5:46 AM Quote of the day (John Wesley):
How true, how true.
5:40 AM Students, I hope you were nice to me this semester. In tomorrow's faculty meeting we're voting to see if you are graduating or not.
5:32 AM My heart goes out to the families of the pastors killed last week in Nigeria. Sometimes the Adversary gets angry and says, "I'll kill you!" But Christians are immune to fear if they will believe and live accordingly. As He walked this earth, Jesus perfectly illustrated this truth. We died with Him on the cross, and so we consent to dying daily and even dying physically if need be.
Monday, December 3
9:18 PM Almost forgot. Landon Metts (a student of mine) was kind enough to swap books with me last week. Here he is with his tomes. (I threw in Christian Archy for fun.)
For information about his excellent book Pursuing Wisdom, click here.
8:54 PM Here's something Becky and I reflected on today over lunch: Nigusse is about to finish one half of his education here at Southeastern. That's right. He's completed 3 out of his 6 semesters. Which means, if there are things to do and places to go here in the States, we had better start planning these trips now. If I could, I would love to take Nigusse to the following sites. I could mention many others, but these are all places that I have visited personally. So ... from West to East:
Diamond Head ... the Arizona Memorial ... Kailua Beach (where I grew up) ... the Golden Gate Bridge ... the Hearst Castle ... Yosemite ... Death Valley ... Mount Hood ... Puget Sound ... the Little Big Horn Battlefield ... Mount Rushmore ... the Grand Tetons ... Yellowstone ... Bryce and Zion ... the Meteor Crater ... the Grand Canyon ... the Great Salt Lake ... the Saint Louis Arch ... Mesa Verde ... the Alamo ... Bourbon Street ... Chicago's Shoreline Drive ... the Andersonville POW Museum ... Fort Sumter ... Kitty Hawk ... VMI and Washington & Lee University ... Gettysburg ... Valley Forge ... the Statue of Liberty ... the Empire State Building ... Niagara Falls ... Mystic Harbor ... Plymouth Colony ... and the Old North Church.
Now, as you know, there's a chance I'll be able to visit Australia next summer for the very first time. I'd love for some of you Aussies to make a similar list for me of sites I need to see Down Under. I know I can't see everything on one trip, but where should I start?
(Hint: I used to be an avid surfer so please include surfing beaches.)
8:33 PM Of the books Mark Stevens received this week, this one caught my eye: The Art of Pastoring: Ministry Without All the Answers. What intrigued me was the book's subtitle. Some perfectionists are waiting until they become fully competent before they pastor. The fact of the matter is, God's saints down through the ages have been Nehemiahs who struggled with discouragement and feelings of deep inadequacy. Yet through opposition and failure, they got the job done. We miss so much because we live on the low level of fear of failure. We leave no room for God to do what He does so splendidly through weak but yielded vessels.
I could preach for a long time on this, but I have written a book about it instead :)
8:13 PM Praise God! The Global Orphan Project has begun its first work in Hosanna, Ethiopia. Hosanna was the Lapsleys' first mission station when they went to Ethiopia in the 1960s. I was delighted to teach and preach several times in Hosanna on my first trip to Ethiopia many years ago. God has uniquely blessed the U.S. Never has a nation enjoyed such material blessings. So glad to see Americans using their position of privilege to come alongside the world's neediest. It's obvious that Jesus will have no one who will put comfort ahead of His kingdom.
6:28 PM Quote of the day (T. C. Robinson):
Ditto for the blogs we read.
6:14 PM "Old soldiers never die; they just fade away."
If I may respectfully disagree, General....
Why should Christ's warriors fade away? Why should advancing years cause us to settle for a soft, cushy retirement? As an old man, Caleb asked for a mountain (Josh 14:2). His greatest days were his last days. Why should we settle for anything less today? Even in our final years, we can claim as much of God's power as is necessary for our good and His glory.
Seasoned saint: Make room in your life for the supernatural. Then, when your task is finished, it will not merely be "done" but "well done."
6:06 PM Sky-cross. Gorgeous.
2:50 PM Only two weeks to go in the semester. What a crazy ride it's been. Thank God that Jesus is not only our Savior, He's our sanity.
2:48 PM Alvin Reid is right: It's time for a change in student ministry. And he's the right man to lead the charge.
"Decisionism." That dreaded word of Christianity. Yes, Alvin, I'm tired of it. Yet I would be the first person to say to my own shame that I have sought decisions without making disciples, as I am commanded to do. I hereby repent in terry cloth and ashes!
2:32 PM Glad to see this post written by a fellow farmer: The Dangers of Christian Agriculture. How easy it is for us to fall victim to hyper-activism in the church. Modern evangelicals are among the most apologetic communities in the world. We promote this cause and that doctrine. The unwary Christian can easily fall prey to this merry-go-round of religious "causes." For many of us who have homeschooled, agrarianism is as additive as smoking or drugs. And in the wake of our carnal activism are often broken relationships and splintered churches.
Why, oh why, must we be so busy about other people's business?
2:10 PM I see that there are several sites that publish blogging honors. And, believe it or not, some bloggers will go to almost any lengths to be "number one." Seriously.
Well, my favorite bloggers aren't on any of these lists. They probably never will be. And you know what? I think they're fine with that. If we blog to be seen of men, that's all we'll get. "They have their reward," said Jesus. What's your reward? What payoff are you waiting for? It makes a big difference whether someone wants their payoff now from men or whether they seek the "well-done" of that Day.
So, for what it's worth, to all of you wonderful overlooked bloggers, here's my "bravo" and my "thank you for a job well done." You folks are the greatest. Brother Sounding Brass and Sister Tinkling Cymbal have nothing on you.
11:24 AM Eckhard Schnabel's Paul the Missionary was reviewed today. The review is largely positive though the reviewer is concerned that the author has downplayed strategies and methods in Paul's mission work. I do not think that I would agree with this reviewer in all the details involved, but I do agree that there is much dust to clear out. I am especially concerned that the pendulum will swing too far in one direction or the other. I am quite sure that Paul planned his journeys beforehand. And I'm quite sure that his plans were well-formulated. But I'm just as sure that he was undogmatic about his plans. His strategy can best be described as "flexible planning." It was always subject to the guidance, direction, and control of the Holy Spirit.
If you should ever go to Ethiopia with us, you will be required to attend several all-day orientations in which we cover such topics as the history and geography of Ethiopia, its customs and taboos, the history of missions there, etc. Our approach to missions is, we believe, serious, well-reasoned, and well-planned. Moreover, we seek to follow Paul's example of team ministry, especially in the areas of evangelism and discipleship. You will find yourself working side by side with a large number of Ethiopian associates. We are truly members of each other. In short, we never embark on a mission trip without a definite plan and without intensive preparation. However, at all times we seek to depend only on the Holy Spirit of God for direction and guidance. And often we find ourselves having to adapt our strategies to fit the prevailing situations.
How about you? What has been your experience when going on a mission trip? Was it well planned? And was it adaptable?
Below: One of our orientations.
The work is always bathed in prayer.
Sunday, December 2
9:14 PM What act of scandalous love would you do if you could (or if you dared!) this Christmas that everybody would think you were crazy if you did it? Much of our potential for kingdom service is lost because of our lack of courage and/or conviction. "If I could, I would." Well, you can. So do it!
8:54 PM You know that I am an avid student of the Civil War and of WW II, and have been for a very long time. Gettysburg, Chancellorsville, Antietam/Sharpsburg -- all rank right up there with D-Day on June 6, 1944. But for me, Dec. 7. 1941 will always be in a class of its own, perhaps because of my Hawaiian upbringing. This weekend I've been watching the movie Tora! Tora! Tora! about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, asking myself the question: "How in the world could U.S.-Japanese relations have soured so much that we went to war against other, we who today are such close friends and allies?"
The Japanese "victory" at Pearl was pyrrhic, of course. Better training and coordination on the part of the Japanese airmen would have caused much greater damage to the U.S. Fleet. In fact, just 6 months later came the great victory for the Americans at Midway. But overall, Tora! Tora! Tora! is a superb piece of naval history. It is perhaps the best single movie on the topic and far better than the silly Hollywood sequel. The bombing of Pearl Harbor remains one of the most daring and brilliant naval operations of all time. Still, I often wonder, What if Nagumo had changed his mind and gone ahead and launched that third wave of aircraft? We will never know.
8:45 PM Paul had to choose between the world and the Gospel. Paul chose the Gospel, because it was "the only thing mattered" to him. That was Nigusse's theme as he taught from Phil. 1:27-30 this morning at Tabernacle Baptist.
The secret of Paul's life was that he was Christ-centered and Spirit-directed. He therefore could face suffering with joy in his heart and a song on his lips. How refreshing in these times when so many have given up, when so few bear witness in their homes and lives to saving grace. There is nothing unusual in Paul's call that all of us should live in a manner required by the Gospel. Just ask the old drunkard of years gone by who became a Christian --or the seminary professor who used to live for his reputation and advancement.
Thank you, Nigusse, for your simple yet challenging message today. It blest a father's heart.
7:16 PM Over at The Atlantic, Andrew Sullivan has a thoughtful piece called Why I Blog.
So ... why do I blog?
My goal in blogging is to edify the Body of Christ worldwide and to expand His kingdom without weakening it through endless factional squabbles at a time when billions of people depend on us working together. This is not to say that I lack personal convictions about God's Word or about doctrine. I am vitally concerned about biblical theology, as I know many of you are. My burden here, however, is to develop partnerships that can help bring people to Christ and not to debate the finer points of theology. I have full confidence that once new converts have embraced Christ, they will be properly guided by His Spirit into obedience. An excellent example of this is the explosive growth of the Ethiopian church after the expulsion of the missionaries during the Marxist era.
Technically, I suppose I can be called a non-residential missionary (NRM). A non-residential missionary is someone who is not a long-term resident of their field of ministry but nevertheless has a long-term commitment. I currently work as an NRM in Ethiopia and several other nations, residing in the U.S. but traveling internationally 3-4 times a year. I see my job as one of helping foreign nationals to do their work through mentoring and training. I work closely with local church leadership wherever I go and am willing to live in whatever conditions I may find myself with the national believers. In addition, I consider it a major goal of mine to develop mission bands or "strike forces" that are highly mobile and strategically equipped to give undivided attention to the specific work at hand with a laser-like focus. I am also seeking to mentor foreign nationals in a way that transforms the individual, contributes to the mission of their local church, and has the potential of impacting the church as a whole in that country.
I believe that every Christian, and that all of us together, need to respond to Jesus' call to follow Him into the world with the Good News, taking risks and demonstrating His scandalous love, even if it should cost us our lives. As we travel to the nations, God can open our eyes to the needs of others, make us aware of our own ethnocentricity, and spark a lifelong commitment to global evangelization. In the words of Alistair McGrath, "Evangelism is something intrinsic to the identity of the Church -- not an optional extra, but something part and parcel of its very being" (CT, June 19, 1995, p. 21).
So it's important to understand what I'm trying to do here at DBO -- and also what I'm not trying to do. I'm not trying to debate agrarianism or eschatology or Calvinism. I'm trying to point out to anyone who will listen to me why the new birth and sacrificial love are inextricably bound up with each other, as a growing number of bloggers are proclaiming. They are not interested in the latest fad in scholarship as much as they desperately desire to reclaim the simplicity of the Gospel. It's too bad that we New Testament scholars have made Christianity so complicated. The Hindu leader Gandhi, when asked to define a "Christian," would often reply, "Ask the poor. They will tell you who the Christians are." The greatest work of the church has not been the occasional burst of the miraculous or the fanfare of some great achievement, but the day-to-day testimony of Christians living out their faith in the monotonous grind of life.
I pray that you will join me on this great adventure. As bloggers, we have the tremendous opportunity to provide an alternative to those who see the American Dream as their only hope. May we invest our blogging energies into making the Jesus way of life attractive to more and more people. Let us, in short, become followers of Jesus again.
May God bless us and help us, for the glory of His name.
3:15 PM So it's the "first Sunday of Advent." Lots of blog posts celebrating this day. Let's see ... we've got our advent services, our advent candles, our advent wreaths, our advent prayers, our advent sermons. Odd. The earliest church had no idea this season of the year was so important. "But we need the Light during this dark season!" Maybe I'm a little crazy, but I say, let's embrace the darkness. After all, what's crazier: spending millions of dollars on Christmas celebrations, or suggesting that if we gave that money away to the neediest among us, the world would be a better place? One site I read ended its post on Advent with these words: "May God be pleased to deepen and sweeten your adoring of Jesus this Advent." No thank you. Jesus was not about Jesus. He was about others. He never said, "Adore me." He said, "Go." The person who loves Christmas will destroy Christmas, but the person who sacrifices for the people around them will create the true spirit of the incarnation. The Jesus movement is a revolution that shines brightest in ghettos and refugee camps, in the persecuted churches of China and Ethiopia, and in prisons and old folks' homes. The reality of the incarnation should mess with our sense of normalcy at Christmas. Jesus' incarnation tells us that we too have work to do in the name of the Slaughtered Lamb. My heart sinks when I walk into a church sanctuary and see it full of seasonal decorations. It is a dangerous day when we remove the Bible from our altars to make room for manger scenes. For years Becky and I have been trying to think responsibly about this time of the year. That's why we're usually in Ethiopia during the month of December. We cannot "adore Jesus" and bypass our neighbor who is in need. I don't know about you, but I think the church in America is ready for something new. In an age of conformity (even in the church), I say, dare to be different. The church in Laodicea was lukewarm -- which is another way of saying that it was smug and self-satisfied in the midst of a needy world. The church is not just to enjoy the Gospel but to live it. May God give us grace by the Power of the Holy Spirit to see how deeply we have been polluted by the world and to learn to be faithful to the Way.
Saturday, December 1
8:50 PM Before I sign off for the night and watch the Rockford Files with Becky, I want to tell you about a brand new blog post that will leave you with a big smile on your face. It's about Becky's dad, Brad Lapsley, and the work he is still doing for the Ethiopian church years after returning to America.
To me, dad is THE definition of "Christian retirement." The Christian spells "retire" as "re-tire." Retirement simply means that you get new "tires" and keep truckin' for Jesus. Thanks dad for the wonderful example you are setting for us younger bucks of what growing older with a kingdom mindset looks like.
8:33 PM Our free book offer is now closed. The 3 books will go out on Tuesday when I return to campus. Thanks for celebrating with me. God is so good!
8:21 PM Have you noticed? Nothing reveals the bankruptcy of the evangelical church in America more clearly than our materialistic lifestyles. Especially at Christmas. How easily we get caught up in the spirit of the world. Several years ago Becky and I made the conscious decision to forgo exchanging Christmas presents with each other and to let God use that money instead to purchase our tickets to Ethiopia. We no longer buy presents for other people or purchase a Christmas tree. We've never missed those things. Our lifestyle has become a lot simpler than it was before we started going to Ethiopia twice a year. We made a definite choice to go without certain things in order to put Ethiopia first.
Yet as I pray and evaluate my life today, I am discovering many other areas of my lifestyle that require sifting. True, I'm still willing to leave the safety and security of America several times a year. But when I am at home I tend to think that I can't live without that bowl of ice cream. I feel the need to find new ways to save money for missions. Already the television and magazine subscriptions have disappeared from my life. And I rarely purchase any books for my personal library. No, I'm NOT going to become a Scrooge about these things. But God has convicted me that I need to be more frugal than I am now. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 8 -- that classic passage on Christian finances -- "I'm not laying down any rules. But by showing how eager you are to help, I'm trying to find out how real your own love is" (2 Cor. 8:8). Paul's telling me -- Dave Black -- that I must seek equity in my dealings with other believers, be they Americans or Africans. "Since you have plenty," he writes, "it's only fair that you should help those who are in need." If that doesn't hit the nail on the head. Our problem in America is that we believe all the money that comes to us belongs to us to spend as we please. There is only one solution to this problem, and it is not legalism. It is seeking the mind of Christ about the proper use of earthly things. It is living a life that matches my responsibility to my fellow believers in the Majority World.
Friends, can you imagine what would happen this Christmas if Christians in America were to grasp this principle of equity? Within a few years, we would turn our world upside down for Christ. May God begin to set us free from our covetousness and greed and help us to live more simply so that others might simply live. Let's be sure to keep His example always before us:
Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift!
6:44 PM Nigusse isn't the only one working on Philippians tonight. I'm sitting here reflecting on its core message. Philippians is basically a call to missions. "Yet," you say, "where does Paul call the Philippians to active engagement in the Gospel ministry?" He doesn't. He didn't need to. The entire letter is an implicit call to put Christ first. And if Christ comes first, so will the Gospel. The missiological thrust of Philippians makes sense not only in light of the letter's first imperative ("The only thing that matters is that you live as good citizens of heaven in a manner required by the Gospel," 1:27), but also in light of the letter's historical situation. Why do the Philippian believers need to be united? So that they would not hinder the Gospel message (2:12-18). Why must Euodia and Syntyche lay aside their differences? Because a church polarized around their leaders will lose its missionary effectiveness (4:2-4).
Likewise today, my friends, if our churches are so bent on promoting our own personalities and programs and superstars and ideologies, our mission will be centripetal -- inward moving -- whereas God's call is for us to be centrifugal -- outward moving. We are to be "holding forth the life-giving message" (2:16). I propose that we look afresh at Philippians as a missiological epistle instead of as a "prison" epistle. Nils Dahl once argued that Paul's entire theology was a "missionary theology" (Studies in Paul, 70-94). He was right.
So my message to you, my students, in a nutshell is this: Foster unity. Not for its own sake, of course, but as a precious gift of the Holy Spirit. Be daringly "big-hearted" (4:5) on all matters that are peripheral to the kingdom, but be utterly immovable on all matters that pertain to a kingdom lifestyle. For, if you hold forth the Word of life, as the early church did, you might find your congregation exploding with fresh passion and excitement in the years to come.
I encourage us all to read this powerful little letter in this light.
11:40 AM Grateful to be together as a family again. To celebrate Becky's return to Bradford Hall, I will be giving away three free books. You can choose from either Rethinking New Testament Textual Criticism, Rethinking the Synoptic Problem, and It's Still Greek to Me. Just send me an email at email@example.com and request your copy. If I get more than one request per book, I will draw names from a hat. Non bloggers are welcome!
When you write, kindly include your mailing address.
11:18 AM I once quipped, "I only drank tea once. That was in the hospital." Today I am an avid tea drinker, as long as it is simple green tea without any honey or sugar added. I just made a cup of tea for Nigusse (the hard-working student) and his dad. Can you tell where this tea comes from?
10:02 AM Andrew Rozalowsky calls our attention to a new journal titled Biblical and Ancient Greek Linguistics. The third essay on language choice I found especially helpful.
9:36 AM Marian Merkle (the wife of my colleague Ben Merkle) started her chemotherapy treatments this week. Join me lifting up our dear sister and her family.
9:30 AM Nigusse's working on papers this weekend. I cooked him this breakfast.
Think: brain food.
8:41 AM Is your blog written by an entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurs are organizers. They excel in "putting it all together."
Entrepreneurs are hard workers. They know how to discipline their lives to get projects done.
Entrepreneurs are risk-takers. They are willing to try things and go places that others would consider too risky.
Entrepreneurs are resourceful. They find ways to succeed where others give up.
Entrepreneurs are creative. They cannot stand the status quo.
Entrepreneurs are willing to make mistakes. They try new ventures and sometimes fail, but they always learn from their mistakes.
I've never thought of myself as an entrepreneur. But when it comes to blogging, my heart beats like one. Some of you bloggers are the same way. When I visit your sites I don't find the same old predicable posts day after day. Instead, I find posts that are enterprising, bold, adventurous, and daring. I love watching you developing your God-given talents. You muster every resource you can to produce blogs that are edifying and God-honoring.
I praise God for you.
8:20 AM The other day I was asked, "How do you and Becky do missions?" I replied, "Like the apostle Paul, I hope." You recall how Paul once thought it was a good idea to enter Asia, but God had other plans. The Holy Spirit actually prevented him from doing what he wanted to do. That's how Becky and I want to work. We simply want to follow the Spirit's leading. That's it.
Mission work must never be static. It must be adaptable at all times. Above all, it must be Spirit-led. So who's in the driver's seat in your own ministry? Paul was flexible with his plans. He worked in partnership with the Holy Spirit. His methods and strategies were adapted to the prevailing situation and the people he was trying to reach.
One way God has clearly directed Becky and me in the past has been through the local church leaders with whom we work in Ethiopia. We labor closely with them. The biblical basis for such a partnership is John 17, Jesus' high priestly prayer for unity. To refuse to cooperate with local church leaders is to reject this prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus prayed not merely for the unity of individual believers but for unity among believers, that is, unity between congregations. So if we want to obey Jesus' call to Christian unity, it seems to me that we must formulate partnerships with like-minded believers already present on the mission field. It is unthinkable that I should go to Ethiopia and refuse to work the local churches there. You say, "But they're not Southern Baptists." Precisely. The unity Jesus is speaking of is unity in diversity. Again, the issue reverts back to pride and arrogance. Instead of humbly approaching our indigenous brothers and sisters and seeing them as full partners in God's mission, we come with our own (Western) agendas. I submit that we must be open to partnership as well as fellowship. Disunity is unacceptable to God. I view the church in Ethiopia and my own congregation in America to be, like Paul and Apollos, co-laborers, not competitors. One plants, another waters, but neither can produce any results. Only God can make things grow. We are merely His servants.
If you are just starting out in missions work, I would encourage you to work with, and not against, local church leadership. Missions cannot be engaged in without cooperation and collaboration. Indeed, the Holy Spirit delights to lead us when we are truly "striving together for the faith of the Gospel" (Phil. 1:28). For Becky and me, our commitment to building indigenous churches and to partnering with them has been one reason we have enjoyed our work so much as cross-cultural missionaries. As "fraternal workers," we are wary of drive-by missionary activities that bypass local church leadership. We are together a people of the Spirit. And we trust the Spirit to stir up our minds and spirits and indeed burden our hearts for creating genuine partnerships with Christ's people in Ethiopia and elsewhere.
Below: Meeting with church leaders in the Ethiopian bush. Each of these men is precious to us.