July 2012 Blog Archives
Tuesday, July 31
8:04 PM For dinner tonight:
Prepared by one of the world's best dumpling makers.
7:12 PM The Abnormal Anabaptist does it again with his essay Romans 12 -- The Core Gospel. I agree completely. In fact, while teaching Romans last week to a group of elders and church leaders in Ethiopia, my students were all required to commit to memory Rom. 12:9-21. This is the core Gospel! The Christian who simply spouts off correct doctrine but fails to pray and share and sacrifice is not an obedient Christian. We only have unity when we have a common life in Christ. We are to build love in the Body from the microscopic to the universal. Then the Gospel will be both caught and taught by others.
By the way, here's my class. We met 6 hours a day. In addition to Rom. 12:9-21, they memorized 1:16-17, 5:1, 8:1, and 12:1-2.
My translator is on the left. His name is Nisanet. People often ask me what it's like to work with a translator. When he is in sync with you, there's nothing like it. When he's not, there's nothing worse. Nisanet did a great job, even mimicking my gestures (and I tend to have lots of those).
Oh, how I love Romans! But it is more than a theological treatise -- so much more. Let us continually stress that the church is not an organization but an organism. Let the church be the church -- united in scandalous love for one another and for the lost.
6:36 PM Glad to see that Greek is being taught in Hawaii this year, hosted by the Antioch School. Tom Schreiner of SBTS will teach the capstone course in December.
For all you Islanders out there, this is a great opportunity to learn to read the Greek New Testament. The venue is a perfect one, too: Kalihi Union Church in the heart of Honolulu.
5:48 PM Odds and ends ...
1) Yet another job opening, this time in New Testament at Wake Forest University.
2) I'm thrilled to be speaking at Young Life Raleigh on Saturday, Sept. 29, from 10:00 - 1:00 pm. My topic will be how to read the Gospels. We will discuss my book Why Four Gospels? We'll be meeting at The Church of the Apostles in Raleigh, just near the beltline off Six Forks Rd. See you there!
3) Update: Of the 24 students in my Greek 3 class, only three could claim that they can speak a modern language fluently enough to be able to pray and preach in it. Are we missing, here in America, the Bilingual Advantage?
4) P.S. I am so grateful for diligent, hard-working students. Thank you for doing so well on today's quiz. Looking forward to talking about Phil. 1:12-26 in class tomorrow.
8:08 AM Today we begin our study of NT Greek linguistics based on my book, Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek. For example, we will see that to be a linguist one does not also have to be a polyglot. What do you think? Is it necessary to know several languages to be able to handle the biblical text accurately? Is it helpful?
Monday, July 30
8:08 PM Since we are beginning our study of Philippians ...
8:03 PM Today we looked at this verse in our Greek class: "Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Philippi along with those who oversee and serve." Gerald Hawthorne noted (1) that Paul allows Timothy to share the same platform with him, and (2) that he addresses the overseers and deacons in the church as extensions of the Body and not as being over it. "How is one to begin to attack selfishness and disunity? By subtly showing from the very beginning that in the Church seniority and high calling do not put one Christian leader above another (Paul and Timothy are one -- they are slaves of Christ Jesus) and that 'church supervisors' are not above serving...."
This is what unity in the cause of the Gospel looks like! Thus, from the outset, Paul is emphasizing that as we work together for the Gospel we become partners with God in His work of salvation. I summarized this theme as follows in class today:
Paul = his Gospel name
Timothy = Paul's Gospel helper
Paul and Timothy = a Gospel team
Paul then Timothy = Gospel mentoring
Slaves = Gospel sacrifice
To all = Gospel unity
Overseers and servers = Gospel servants
One last thought: I believe it would go a long way in re-establishing a biblical ecclesiology if were to call deacons "servers." As Hawthorne and many others have rightly pointed out, these expressions (overseers and deacons) were not technical terms when Paul used them.
Tomorrow: Phil. 1:3-11 -- thanksgiving and prayer.
6:49 PM When David Dockery and I co-edited our book Interpreting the New Testament (B & H), we gave the lead-off essay to Peter Davids, whose assignment was to distinguish between "Authority, Hermeneutics, and Criticism." In other words, not every question of biblical interpretation impinges on the matter of authority or inerrancy. Some subjects are quite simply matters of interpretation and/or hermeneutics. Getting this distinction right is essential if we are to be true biblical scholars. So it was with pleasure that I stumbled upon Michael Kruger's latest essay titled Roundtable with Mike Licona on the Resurrection of Jesus. I agree wholeheartedly with Professor Kruger:
Note: The matter is basically one of hermeneutics and not of inerrancy. I would also note that the entire roundtable discussion can be found in our new seminary journal, Southeastern Theological Review, whose editor is my friend Heath Thomas (also the new head of Ph.D. studies at Southeastern). This is scholarship at its very best, and I encourage you to request your librarian to subscribe to the journal.
6:34 PM Scholars have debated for centuries where the crossing of the Red Sea (Sea of Reeds or Yam Suf) took place. I believe I know the answer. Below is the Yam Suf ("Sea of Reeds") at Rosewood Farm.
Due to near-drought conditions, our goats have been able to get past the woven wire that once dead-ended in the water but now hangs a foot or two above dried-out ground. Hence "the crossing of the Red Sea."
I hereby declare that the exit has been fixed, and any goat that transgresses again will reap the consequences.
2:54 PM Regent University announces an opening in Old Testament.
2:46 PM I see I'm not the only one not looking for the "perfect" church. Arthur, you are right on!
(More on the topic: Paper Perfect Churches.)
2:40 PM Just picked up some good friends from the bus station in Durham. They are visiting here from Asia and spending a few days with us on the farm.
2:34 PM Grateful to Crossway Books for sending me a copy of Understanding Scripture.
The book offers helpful advice on biblical hermeneutics. My chapter is called "Greek, and How It Works."
6:10 AM I'm enjoying Mark Stevens series on pastors as shepherds. I have one observation. In Eph. 4:11, Paul mentions apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, but one would be hard-pressed to identify a New Testament "pastor" by name. Indeed, the word translated "pastors" in Eph. 4:11 is a metaphor rather than a literal term denoting an ecclesiastical office. Note the following occurrences of poimen (and its plural poimenes) in the New Testament:
In light of the consistent usage of poimen in the New Testament, it is ironic that the term most frequently used today to describe church leaders – "pastor" – is found only once in the entire New Testament to refer to followers of Christ, and then only in the plural. The word itself simply denotes a "shepherd." It's an appropriate image. In Jesus' day, shepherds were without status. Theirs was a lowly, humble occupation. Thus the metaphor is fitting, for our Lord said, "Let him who is the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as the servant" (Luke 22:26). In a similar vein, the apostle Peter wrote:
When Peter wrote these words, most people were thoroughly familiar with sheep and shepherding (as they are today in places like Africa). Elders, he says, are like shepherds who guard the flock under the tender supervision of the Chief Shepherd. They feed the sheep with God's Word and lead them by example. They keep the sheep from wandering off into pastures that might harm them. Theirs is an enormous task, but faithful elders will reap the reward of an unfading crown of glory, awarded by the Chief Shepherd Himself.
Sunday, July 29
6:08 PM More odds and ends ...
1) Becky and her mom worked fast and furiously on a jigsaw puzzle while I was gone.
It's a real beaut too.
The idea was to get Becky off her feet and relax. It worked.
2) Who in the world would dress up like this for church? Only missionaries who love Ethiopia! Marsh, Leigh, and Thomas, yall look GREAT.
3) Quote of the day (from Jason's message this morning):
4) Tonight I'm working on the page proofs for the second edition of Paul, Apostle of Weakness for Wipf and Stock. Will be glad to see that book back in print after 28 years.
5:55 PM On our first Sunday in Ethiopia we were privileged to dedicate to the glory of God a new meeting hall for the believers in one town there.
Becky and I began praying and asking God to meet this need many years ago. Despite setbacks and much opposition, today hundreds of believers meet there. I can tell you, the older I get the more I realize that all that matters in life is that you love and serve Jesus by loving and serving others. I must confess that I was skeptical when we first thought of the idea of erecting this meeting hall. The challenges were constant. However, God never forgot us. The work was accomplished through the generosity of God's people in America who care about Jesus, who want to lay treasure up in heaven, whose chief goal is not to get rich but just to please God. I will not mention their names because they would not want that. But the memorial they are leaving behind! You can imagine that seeing all this I went to bed that night saying, "God, that's what You're all about. Buildings cannot contain You, but this meeting hall was sorely needed. Thank you for providing it." Yes, that's what life is all about -- meeting the needs of His people. This congregation kept being evicted from the rooms they were renting, for no other reason than the fact they were Jesus-followers. No private home was large enough to accommodate them. Now they have a place to meet.
It would take a whole book to chronicle all that God is doing in this town in Ethiopia. We are commanded to "share what we have with God's people who are in need" (Rom. 12). And this is the result.
7:32 AM Odds and ends ...
1) Jon Glass sent this picture to Becky from Dulles before we boarded our plan for Addis. Jon has now got me hooked on Caramel Macchiato. I shall never forgive him. What an incredible drink.
2) Heartiest congratulations to the new dean of Talbot School of Theology. Clint is a good friend of mine and a former Greek student. I loved teaching at Talbot and still think it is one of the premier seminaries in the nation.
3) Greek 3 (Syntax and Exegesis) begins tomorrow. We're translating Philippians together. I have three pages of notes on just the first two verses.
4) We say goodbye to mom today as she flies back to Dallas. Thanks, mom, for watching over Becky during my absence. Bon voyage!
Saturday, July 28
4:41 PM In 1998 there were 120,000 of them. In 1998, 450,000. In 2003, 1,000,000. And in 2006, 2,200,000. These are the numbers of 1-2 week mission trips taken annually by U.S. citizens. In 2006 alone, Americans spent over 1 billion dollars on short term mission trips.
It is worth it?
There is no one-size-fits-all-answer. As you know, I just returned from 2 weeks of intense ministry in Ethiopia. I took 15 other Americans with me. Each partner provided a component of what was needed to address some of the spiritual needs we found in Africa. We came with three things. First, there was love. Christ's love. Second, there was obedience. God wants obedience, not sacrifice. Finally, there was service. God used people who wanted to be used. Each of us is a nobody. But we presented our bodies as living sacrifices. We went a step beyond believing to giving and suffering (Phil. 1:29). As near as I can understand Scripture, these are about the best three things we can pass on to others. I'm proud of our team. They were so faithful. No superstars. No prima donnas. Each heart bleeding for others. They prayed more earnestly and importunately than anyone I've ever met. We're an odd mixture of faith and doubt, boldness and timidity, strength and weakness. Each was awed (or even frightened!) by the magnitude of the task to which God had called us. But He used us, and for that we are grateful.
It was mid-way through my career that God laid the world on my heart: First Europe, then South Korea, then Africa, then Asia and the Middle East. I have had the privilege of ministering on these continents dozens of times since 1990. I am now persuaded that each local congregation has an obligation to the ends of the earth. So does each individual believer. Traveling in rural Ethiopia is about the closest thing I have ever experienced to frontline missions. It is virtually impossible not to respond to a need on the spot, however great. I recall seeing a young man -- our Christian bus driver's helper -- in bare feet. He obviously needed shoes, and he got them. A week later he repented of his sins and confessed Christ as his Savior publicly. For five years I prayed for the salvation of a high Muslim leader. It was absolutely uncanny how God allowed me to stay in his village hut during my visits there. On my last trip to this area of Ethiopia in 2010 he was close. Now it is done.
Time and again I've seen God put me in the right place at the right time to see a need that took more faith than I had to fulfill. And then He met it.
I am a sinner. No one knows this better than I do. But I also know the exceedingly gracious forgiveness and love of our Savior. How can I refuse to share that love with others? It's been about a decade since I first visited Ethiopia. Becky and I just wanted to see where she grew up, where she was molded, so to speak. My second night in Ethiopia I laid my head on my pillow and said to Becky, "Honey, I love these people so much it hurts." It is a privilege to serve alongside our Ethiopian brothers and sisters. I am ceaselessly amazed that God grants me a part in this work. Soon I will travel to Asia (October), South America (November), Europe (March 2012), and then back to Asia (April). It takes much prayer and deliberation for me to reach my decision to go on these trips. And Becky is right there with me, if not physically then emotionally and spiritually. Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision and Samarian's Purse, once heard someone say, "Did you hear that Bob Pierce is dying of leukemia?" He butted in, "No! Bob Pierce is not dying of leukemia; he is living with leukemia!" Becky has had some of her greatest ministries since she contracted cancer. She's never been more alive! I have been blessed beyond measure and challenged by what God can do through a woman who lets Him.
Ditto for my Ethiopia teammates. Though I was initially a stranger to some of them, we have become close friends. Little did I know that being with them would enlarge my vision for world missions even more. So ... are short term mission trips worth it? Ask them. They will always be special to me. Why? Because they are friends of the "little" people, the hurting and hopeless, people who are forgotten, except in heaven. May God richly bless their efforts, and may their fruit remain. No, we did not meet every need. No one can do that. But we obeyed God and did as much as He gave us the faith and ability to do. I'm forever grateful for that.
Yours in the Great Cause,
P.S. Your prayers were felt -- and answered. Thank you.
Wednesday, July 11
7:40 AM Good morning bloggers of the world! It's been crazy here. I'm alive and well -- but barely. It seems I'm fighting a chest cold, but I think I'm winning the battle (thanks, mom, for the throat lozenges and vitamins). Bottom line: We're leaving today, ready (and 100 percent) or not. I'm certainly looking forward to this trip. You might remember that we've made a whole slew of visits to Ethiopia in the past 8 years. Now it's time to return. I invite you to join me in the process. Here's how.
No need to write. I'll be pretty much incommunicado for a while. My teammates also ask for your prayers:
I have to say -- this is a GREAT team, and I'm super eager to get started working with them, even though I'm dragging. It's just like God to remind me that it's through weakness that He best works. Like I've said before, in doing mission work we're overextended by intent. So, I thank you ahead of time for keeping tuned in, even though I won't be officially "blogging" for a few days. In the meantime I'll be missing Becky. She's undoubtedly the glue that holds these trips together. This effort would be impossible without her labors. I'm not saying this just because I'm her husband. It's a fact. Please pray for her too.
I leave you with the 4 "Alls" of Matthew 28:19-20 (the Great Commission of Jesus):
Jesus promises to be with us "all the days" -- that is, each and every day, one day at a time. Until we meet again, stay centered in Him, and live in love (Eph. 5:1-2).
Tuesday, July 10
6:16 PM Hey friends! Thanks again for all your thoughts and prayers. Things are getting into high gear for the trip. Since I haven't had much to do of late (ha ha!), I thought I'd write a new essay for our home page. It's got the "catchy" title Why I Go. Well, title aside, I think it's an essay that will encourage and challenge you.
8:40 AM Odds and ends ...
1) Becky and her mom are off to get B's blood work done. The CT scan taken yesterday shows some possible cancer activity in her spine, so we will be talking with Becky's oncologist tomorrow. Otherwise the nodules in her lungs are showing no additional growth, which is very good news indeed.
2) I see that China may be changing its one-child policy in light of the forced abortion of a 7-month old fetus. Actually, I'm told you can have more than one child if you are willing and able to pay a "penalty" of about $6,000. When Beijing's new leaders are installed new year, I'll guess we'll find out what, if anything, happens in this regard.
By the way, I think we should impose a "one-post-a-day" policy in the blogosphere. This will apply to those bloggers who are constantly updating their sites with witty and exceptionally interesting material. Enough already! There's no way us lesser mortals can keep up with you!
3) Now this looks like fun:
"Community surfing," I guess you could call it.
4) You can keep up-to-date with the persecuted church worldwide at Compass Direct News. I do.
5) Did you know that the very first Baptist church to be established in America was founded by Roger Williams in Rhode Island in 1638? And guess what? It was called the First Baptist Meeting House. I much prefer this to "church," don't you? (Truth be told, it was also known as the First Baptist Church, but its identity as a meeting house was prominent.)
Incidentally, when I speak at the dedication of our new meeting house in Alaba this Sunday, my text will be Acts 7:38: "However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands." Should make for an interesting meeting, you think?
6) Read Hypocrisy of the First Magnitude in Afghanistan. And no, I do not plan on watching the video of her execution/murder.
Monday, July 9
4:38 PM Hey Ethiopia Team members! If you're taking Doxycycline (like me) as a prophylactic for malaria, please note:
Guys and gals, this means you should probably begin taking it on Wednesday and certainly no later than Thursday.
4:02 PM I've always despaired of coming up with any exhaustive list of what I believe a New Testament church ought to look like. The notion of a royal priesthood captures well, I think, my overall perspective of the composition of an authentically New Testament congregation. I have frequently argued this point on my website and in my more recent print publications. However, there are several strands in this perspective that bear unraveling, if only in a tentative way. The following list is a good place to start.
If you are interested in pursuing the study of church polity, I am contemplating taking on a doctoral student in the near future to conduct research in this area. If so, please contact me at email@example.com.
3:45 PM Spain ... Guyana ... Taiwan ... Indonesia ... Moldova ... South Asia ... Malaysia ... Japan. Plan now to join us on one of our SEBTS mission trips this coming school year.
11:03 AM Looking ahead...
I'm making plans to attend a conference at Dallas Seminary's Howard Hendricks' Center for Christian Leadership on Sept. 17, 2012. It's called "Recovering Our Creative Calling" and features Andy Crouch and Darrell Bock. For detailed information, click here. While in Dallas my father-in-law and I anticipate visiting the Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit at SWBTS in Forth Worth. Care to join us at either venue?
10:24 AM Congratulations to New Testament colleague Max Turner on his new Festschrift. Well-deserved honor indeed.
10:20 AM Unbelievable. Simply unbelievable. You list Alfred Hitchcock's greatest movies and North by Northwest fails to make the cut? Only a "dishonorable mention"? Shameful. From the opening credits to the thrilling dénouement on Mount Rushmore, NBN is an unmistakable classic. Best of all is the crop duster scene, which only the most skillful cinematic execution could have accomplished.
Cary Grant's acting was never better, and Herrman's score is beautifully haunting. James Mason as chief villain rounds out an exceptional cast. It is simply a cinematic tour de force. It's thoroughly Hitchcockian, and just terrific moviemaking.
10:05 AM This letter arrived in my inbox this morning, with the subject line "Lifting Weights -- Commentaries Division."
No doubt about it: Kenner will receive the award. As for Greek studies, here's the volume I require for Weight Lifting 301:
9:52 AM Letter to self:
Okay, Dave, the game's up. You're going back to Ethiopia, and you're going to pay a price. Go with God, and there is always pain. You can't be a Sunday Christian on a mission trip. I won't kid you -- the price is high for going to the nations. The pressure will be enormous. The trick is to get it working for you, not against you. Remember that.
Incidentally, you've got some excess baggage you need to leave behind. No power ties. Position won't cut it. Missions is a way of living, not a method. Unless you abandon your rights, you'll scuttle the mission. Thankfully, all souls are vulnerable to prayer. Even yours. If you ever forget about the power He's promised, you're done. Face it, Dave, you have a low pain threshold. But you can't test God's resources until you attempt the impossible. Can you do this? You bet!
One last piece of advice. Pray every day. Before you do something, pray. After you do something, pray. Thank God ahead of time for how He will use you. Yes, you. Because you're a co-laborer with Him. Because you have made a commitment to Christ, to the church, and to God's world. Jesus was a towel wearer and a basin bearer. And now He wants to live through you. Believe it or not, you can help people find Christ. Forget your inadequacies. Bury them. The truth is, you are in way over your head. Missions is tough, tiring, and terrifying. It's also terrific. Have faith that God will use your serving lifestyle. Willingly submit to His agenda each day, and put yourself out on a limb. He's worth it.
Sunday, July 8
2:54 PM Hebrews expert Brian Small offers up an excellent review of Karen Jobe's new work, Letters to the Church.
2:47 PM The Great Escape from Sagan in March of 1943 is an amazing part of WW II history. Perhaps the most charismatic protagonist in this story is Johnny Dodge, whose biography has just been released. Read a review here.
It's at the top of my to-get list. Endurance, patience, and resourcefulness -- traits needed as much today as then.
2:24 PM This is what a family reunion looks like in Southside Virginia. I have to smile. God has poured out His blessings upon us. Through all our ups and downs, I'm reminded: God never makes mistakes. This is my family. It is much more than I could ever have dreamed it to be.
10:08 AM Group photo of the Lapsley clan:
We're about to have church -- at home.
Saturday, July 7
2:20 PM Reunion update:
1) Becky's sister Barbara really put on a show last night as she traced the "life and times" of Brad and Betty Lapsley.
2) Let's see, so Brad proposes twice to Betty? How can that be? Explanation please, dad.
3) Have you ever seen a more somber picture? Actually, they were very happy to be going to Africa.
4) Here are the grandkids introducing Nigusse to Uno. He won.
5) I tell you, the weekend is rapidly going to the dogs.
12:50 PM I see that now there are 8 marks of a true church. Which makes me a bit "mark worried." At its best, lists like this one add to the richness of the discussion about what makes a church biblical. At its worst, they lead to an irresponsible "boxing in" of Christianity. I worry sometimes that our marks are missing the mark. Nevertheless, the post I linked to above has demonstrated a real need to be able to define what a biblical church looks like. A good place to start might be Acts 2:41-47.
Friday, July 6
7:52 PM All have arrived safely. We're about to watch some movies of mom and dad. Right now our bellies are full of some awfully good Ethiopian food. Later: More ice cream on the porches. Grateful for godly in-laws.
Becky serving up:
Ben yakking with his dad.
The Lapsley clan.
1:30 PM Jason Kees writes Five Reasons I Blog. Why do you blog?
1:23 PM It's a bit ironic, but an Aussie has commented on the recent controversy in the SBC. Craig's post is brilliantly argued. (Internet pat on back.) The unique unity of the Body of Christ is intended to reflect the loving union of God's triune essence. This should help us to understand why unity is such a big deal to God, and why He strongly urges His church to preserve it (Eph. 4:3). I encourage you to honor that priority. It really is a big deal!
Revolutionaries, let's seek peace and pursue it.
12:12 PM There is too much to share about the work in Ethiopia. (I almost said "our" work, but the work is God's.) Here's a picture that means a lot to me.
It's of a church building that has taken us many years to complete due to a few hiccups (well, the opposition was actually pretty intense). But a week from Sunday we will be dedicating the completed structure to God. Again, I find myself thinking, Am I really experiencing this? I am a man from a developed nation. Here we think nothing of spending a few million dollars on a church building. All the Ethiopians ask for is a simple structure, a meeting place with a roof on it, no frills involved. If you have never been in one of these churches you are missing out on what has got to be one of the greatest joys of life. As I sit here at my computer in my air-conditioned home, I'm wondering, How many more of these places could we still build? It's going to take a complete reversal of our values here in America to do it. I realize that. And it's gotta start with me.
10:54 AM We had pancakes for breakfast this morning, after which Becky and her mom went grocery shopping in South Boston for the reunion's food. I wasn't kidding when I said this is going to be a great weekend for B. She's needed some R & R, and what better way to relax than to plan a menu with your mother and then run to the store. All this translates into the fact that I get the joy of watching Becky in her element -- hospitality.
Life really can be that simple. Sometimes all we need is a hug -- and a shopping cart.
8:05 AM Thanks, David, for the good word.
8:00 AM My beginning Greek grammar is currently being translated into a language spoken by millions and millions of people. The question is: How to publish it? In the ancient world, Roman roads spanned more than 250,000 miles, creating a network for the expansion of the Gospel. Today's Roman roads are online. Currently the sale of smartphones and tablets outstrips that of lap- and desk-tops. The world is not merely "connected." It's "hyperconnected," says Thomas Freidman. In this digital age, it's time to think outside the box -- or at least within the new box. In the nation I mentioned, thousands of pastors will need training in the biblical languages. Most of them are connected. Interactive media may well be the best delivery system. Time will tell, but I am leaning in this direction.
Thursday, July 5
8:32 PM Despite thunderstorms in the area, mom and dad touched down safely at RDU at 3:00 pm. After picking them up we drove to Bradford Hall, where we enjoyed a supper of roast pork topped off with a cup of ice cream on the front porch.
Becky then took her mom for a spin in the new golf cart she got for her birthday.
In fact, they have not been seen since. I'll let you know if they return.
4:49 PM Good insights here from James Hernando, who teaches at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri: Principles of Spiritual Leadership from the Salutations of Paul. Among other things, Hernando emphasizes how Paul put the emphasis on equality:
Sounds good to me. I'm all for "mitigating the tensions of hierarchy."
4:33 PM Well, I went to the office today. My suite is a rather quiet place. Josh Waggoner (music and theology) just returned from a 7-week trip to the UK, researching his doctoral dissertation. Todd Borger (Old Testament) is on a Boy Scout trip to New Mexico. Andreas Köstenberger has just moved in. I'm eager to get to know him better. Serving here never gets old. I've been in Wake Forest for 14 years and still love this place. I know it's a cliché, but it seems like it was yesterday when I arrived at Southeastern. Along the way, it's evolved into a life of writing and teaching and mentoring and mission trips. Thank you for being part of my journey. Thank you for caring about me and about what I do. Thank you for the emails you send and the prayers you pray (especially you, Craig). In a few weeks I'll be back in the saddle, trying to train a new generation of Jesus followers to, well, follow Jesus rather than their traditions. Which is why I'll keep writing and blogging and speaking and traveling to the uttermost parts. I grew up as a spoiled child in an island paradise. Next week I'll leave for a dusty, malaria-ridden town in Africa, to eat with my hands and use a hole for a bathroom. Because of God's mercy, for the rest of my life I hope to live this way, no matter how busy my "other" lives as farmer and professor become. I don't know how I'm going to do this. I know myself too well. I am overwhelmed by the prospects of having to face my self-centeredness and inbred laziness. I can't fathom it. But I know God will be with me. Pray with me, will you? Pray that my old self will be overcome, that God would somehow use this weak but yielded vessel to be a testament to His grace. I'm starting to think I'm getting too old for all this. Time is traveling at warp speed. I don't think it will ever get easier. So pray for me. I'm asking God to fill me up so that I can pour myself out.
P.S. These were awaiting me on my office desk when I arrived today: Alex Stewart's doctoral dissertation, and Michael Stover's Th.M. thesis. So proud of both of you.
And here is the syllabus for my Greek 3 class, along with the study questions for our two major textbooks: It's Still Greek to Me, and Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek. All have been posted to Moodle.
I love my office and all that it allows me to do.
Wednesday, July 4
8:53 PM Had a nice hot dog fry at church tonight. Inspired by Arthur Sido, I greeted everyone with a rousing "Happy Violation of Romans 13 Day!" (Just kidding.) Before we ate, our leadership team met to go over some final logistics for the trip next week to Ethiopia.
Jason and Leigh will accompany the team, while Mama B will guard the fort. Please pray for all of us to recover our strength from a grueling week of preparations, especially Becky, who worked the hardest. Pray that the weekend with her family is nothing but a delight for her.
4:07 PM Fuller Seminary in Texas announces an opening in Religion.
4:05 PM One of my doctoral students writes:
I love students like that!
Read Greek Class Update.
3:59 PM Spurgeon: "I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock." Good word for stressful times.
3:45 PM Students, I'll be on campus tomorrow to do some studying. If you'd like to meet up, let me know. Mi oficina es su oficina.
3:32 PM I was going to say something profound about today's holiday, but since so many others have already done such a good job, I think I'll spare you.
But I'll try and keep my comments brief.
Let me share with you a personal word about the Fourth. But first let me steal a line from another author. It comes from Acts 20:24. Here Paul says, "Neither do I count my life dear to myself, so that I might finish my course with joy and the ministry I've received from the Lord Jesus, to testify about the Gospel of grace." That one statement pretty well sums up my whole perspective on life. This is the perfect example of the proper attitude toward things we think are "dear." Paul undoubtedly counted his own life as "dear." Life is one of the most precious gifts of God we can enjoy. But note that he added, "dear to myself." Those two words (one in Greek) make all the difference. I am not one to promote asceticism. Nor do I think we should abhor our nationality. America is indeed a "dear" and precious thing, and so are a hundred other things. I would never desire poverty or persecution or to live under a dictatorship for its own sake. But all these things I'd gladly choose for the sake of the Gospel. It is not easy to be a true Christian in America. Especially in America, where compromise is so easy. We think we can live for Jesus without praying a price. But there's a cross for each of us to bear. We can choose to suffer for Jesus. Or we can opt out of it. Paul chose to love Jesus more than his own life. It wasn't that he hated his own life. It wasn't that he thought his life was unimportant. It's just that something was of greater importance.
In light of all this, I ask a simple question: Since when did God say we could opt out of the cross-life just because we are Americans? Paul was willing to die because his citizenship was in heaven. He was living for another world. That's why I don't get too excited any more about the Fourth. The U.S. has lost its brilliance in the light of the Son. And that's true of pretty much everything in my life nowadays. The more Jesus draws us into His light, the less attractive all the pomp and circumstance of the world becomes. The more we're filled with the light of Christ, the less impressive all the glitter and pom-pom waving is. Yep, the U.S. is light. But only because the world's so dark. You step into the Son-light and all those other lights go completely out.
8:59 AM I love this part of the world.
Notice that it includes Ethiopia and India, where 16 Bethel Hillians are serving this month. All praise to God for awakening a heart for the kingdom in our midst.
8:42 AM More from The Jesus Paradigm:
For more on Peter Walpot, go here.
Incidentally, did you notice the sentence: "These Dissenters even offered to take the place of imprisoned brothers." So here's a question we might ask ourselves: Should we only pray for our sister Asia Bibi in a Pakistani prison? Would one of us be willing to ask the government to take her place in prison? The Spirit is beginning to convict me about this.
8:14 AM Budding Greek scholar John Mureiko is not afraid to re-ask old questions about Matthew 1. Please note that John has also provided the entire text of the Gospel of Matthew, as he puts it, with
You can access it here.
8:02 AM A few odds and ends on this Fourth of July ...
1) Invasions are always tricky. Things can go wrong. Lee apparently believed that invading Pennsylvania was worth the risk. But things didn't work out in his favor. The outcome of the war was determined by his loss at Gettysburg. Why? Quite simply because his enemy had a never-ending source of men and supplies, while he had few reserves of either.
Which brings me to the question of the day. Why did the South lose the Battle of Gettysburg? The truth lies in a combination of fatal mistakes. And no one, I believe, provides a better explanation than a man who was there. General Isaac Trimble's report is fascinating. Oh, you remember the good general. He was portrayed by Morgan Sheppard in the Turner epoch Gettysburg.
I appreciate Trimble's honesty. Naturally, many want to blame only one man. (That man is usually either Stuart or Longstreet.) But, as General Trimble shows, the blame is more evenly spread than that. His instincts are exactly right. Leaders are not infallible in their judgments, even those as adroit as Lee's lieutenants. Perhaps those of us in the church can draw a lesson from that.
2) Good read by J. D. Greear: How Muslims Come to Faith in Christ. He notes three things:
This is very good advice. It will help those of us who work with Muslims to move into their world with grace. It's important to recognize, however, that the particular method doesn't matter too much. Expect God to work -- mainly through His Word and through your love. Sew quality seed, and remember: the medium is the message.
3) Everyone's favorite sheriff has died. Andy Griffith's role succeeded largely because of his foil, Barney Fife (Don Knotts) -- my favorite actor in the series. Why?
In other words, the man was a dork. So much like me, I guess.
Years ago I drew his picture. It hangs on my office wall. This is how I usually feel come Friday.
4) Yesterday I referred to pastor James Boice. He died at the age of 61 from liver cancer. Here's how he announced his terminal illness to his congregation (pdf). If you read nothing else today, please read his brief message. It will greatly bless and challenge you.
Tuesday, July 3
Personally, I don't read daily devotionals. Maybe I should start.
Read The Flag Fetish.
Monday, July 2
This the way of Jesus, the ultimate in downward mobility.
10:33 AM Not that's some fun reading!
In a passage from my second most favorite Sherlock Holmes story,"A Study in Scarlet," Holmes makes this astute observation about knowledge:
I love this part: "It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent." This is one reason why I've stopped learning any more foreign languages. My attic is just plain filled to the brim. If I did try to add Amharic to my little brain, I tell Nigusse, another language would slip out the other side. Holmes used only the most necessary tools for his job. Alas! What are they?
Sunday, July 1