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March 2010 Blog Archives

Wednesday, March 31

8:18 PM

Greetings from Addis!  We arrived feeling drained, but are now somewhat revived after a hot shower & meal.  We came back a day early...with a little baby.  This child is named Tiblet.  She is the 8th child of one of the evangelists in Burji.  The baby is a year old, but is extremely underdeveloped.  We brought the baby (with her parents) to the big city of Awassa to meet with a pediatrician.  The diagnosis is Edwards is similar to Down's Syndrome, but with a different chromosome.  The main (only?) problem is a congenital heart defect.  A new cardiac care hospital has just opened in Addis, so tomorrow we are taking her for an echocardiogram.  After this test, we will know better if anything can be done.

So please pray for the Lord's special grace to be upon us as we try to negotiate the medical care system here in Ethiopia.  I'm praying for His clear guidance as to what, if anything, can be done.  The parents are Wolde and Bogalech.  At first they were stunned with the news, but now they are at complete peace.

Also, we brought back an evangelist from Alaba who has been struggling with malaria, typhoid, typhus and stomach issues for about 6-7 months!  We hope to get him to a decent doctor here in Addis.

We left behind in Burji a young woman named Akee; she was attacked a year ago by the Gujis while bringing food to her father.  She was shot and then knived until they left her for dead.  She was treated at a regional hospital, but has continued to decline in health.  Now she is basically skin & bones, with huge decubitus ulcers on her hips.  In my opinion, she is beyond medical help.  We left some funds with her father, but it's likely she will die in the next few weeks.  Please pray for her...she and her brother are the only Christians in the family.

On other news, Aberash & Baby Nathan (who is now 2 years old) are doing very well....he such a beautiful toddler!  We can't wait to put some video & pictures on the web for everyone to see.

Our time in Burji & in Alaba was above & beyond our expectations.  The times with the people were SO warm & nurturing.  My diagnosis has hit them hard, but they are responding with faithful prayer.  One man walked 6 hours to see me; another waited 8 days to see me.  Lots of times of crying & singing, as testimonies of His faithfulness were shared.

We've also had some very good meetings with the church leaders, as we've reviewed the work in the past 5 years, and looked to the future.  The bond between us is absolutely amazing!  Truly we are greatly blessed!!!!

Both Dave & I are holding up well....though tired, with intermittent health issues...we are basically in good shape.  The church has been taking good care of us.  We're eager to get home & give some full reports.

So, tomorrow (Thurs) will be getting Tiblet tested.  Friday & Saturday will be running more errands & meeting with folk.  Saturday, Dave boards Lufthansa & Sunday (Easter), I board Ethiopian Airlines.

We love you, and appreciate your prayers for us & the Lord's work here in Ethiopia!



Saturday, March 20

7:18 AM

Dear Praying Partners....greetings from Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia! It is about 
8pm Saturday night here.   According to the prayer itinerary, we are supposed to be in 
Soyama now, but Lufthansa lost one of Dave's was very we have 
delayed going down to Burji.  Dave & Oshe are (hopefully) collecting it now at the 
airport, and we will depart at 4am in the morning.  The people are already gathered in 
Soyama to greet us; the one-day delay was very disappointing to them...although we got 
the word to most of them before they left their homes to meet us.  Oshe has told us that 
even until this time, the people were doubting that we were coming...our trip is beyond 
their imagination!
Yesterday & today, I have been going here & there in this city to find things that we 
need.  God gave us 2 excellent helpers...Ephram & addition to Oshe.    The 
solar supplies, the water purifier tablets, the oxygen tank & control valves, the 
autoclave, the Bible teaching CDs & SD cards, etc.,etc.,etc.  What a huge amount of 
non-efficient work....but God has helped us tremendously, seemingly miraculously...if I 
could tell you all the details of how things worked, you would be speechless with 
amazement.  This is Africa; few things make sense & fewer things work as 
planned....except that the Lord intervenes!  He is the Ruler & Sustainer in Africa as 
well as the developed work.
In these past 2 days we have had wonderful discussions with Oshe...and what a blessing to 
be able to sit & discuss the work quietly & leisurely!  Some things we understand better 
now.  Some things are not such welcome news to us.  Some things are wonderful stories of 
God's grace & blessing.  As with most other areas of Life, it is a mixture of 
"good/bad", "blessing/trial", "ease/difficulty".  The work 
needs your prayers!
Please be in special prayer in the next 2 days for safe travel, for our backs (& toes :) 
in the travel, for our reunion times, and especially for the BIG meeting we will have 
with all the District Leaders on Monday afternoon.  Please pray for strength of mind, 
spirit & body...that we would be controlled by His Spirit in our thinking, speech & 
emotions...that we would do His work in His way.  And that we would see all things with 
the view of His sovereignty, His love and His justice.
Trusting His strength,


Thursday, March 18

6:03 AM Time to leave for the airport. I can hardly believe it. I am SO excited.  Jessie and Nathan have agreed to post updates from us on this blog every couple of days, so be sure to check in occasionally. Of course, this depends on availability of electricity, internet service, etc. in Ethiopia, which is never predictable. But that's our intention at least. As soon as they hear something from us they'll post it here.

Love to all,


Wednesday, March 17

6:30 PM Just back from the airport and I am already missing Becky something terrible. I tell you, this house is just not a home without her. What to do until I leave for the airport tomorrow morning? How about just praising the Lord for His great goodness to me! How about focusing on the relationships He has given Becky and me in Ethiopia! Make no mistake about it, missions is not about programs or methods. It is about people, pure and simple. Here are some of the precious Ethiopians whose company we shall soon enjoy again. (This is a mere sampling.)

My Alaba buddies:

The brethren at Bedene:

Halango, Muslim leader of Deda village:

Hajji Mohammed and Fetiye, converts to the Way:

Oshe, our point man in Soyama:

Musicians Desalyn and Zenash:

The church elders in Burji:

Baby Nathan:

The school children of Alaba:

Our daughter Emebet:

The Gujis:

Sarah of Burji:

Our son Mohammed:

As Becky and I said our goodbyes at the airport, we looked at each other and said, "Don't you sense that this is a critical moment in our Ethiopian work?" We feel like we are going into the very heart of the enemy's territory and we do so without any brilliant ideas except to do the will of God. Remember, only soldiers who go to the battlefield are shot at. We are going into the enemy's camp and we aren't turning back.  How about you? Being Christ's servant means going into the risky and unpleasant places of this world. It means leaving the comfortable little retreats we have built for ourselves to go into the mean streets of the inner cities. It means reaching out to our neighbors who are struggling. C. T. Studd once put it this way: "Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell. I want to run a rescue ship within a yard of hell."

Through personal and corporate prayer, let's join forces in the cosmic struggle to win others for Christ. Genuine prayer combines obedience, submission, worship, dependence, and humility. It waits on the Lord God to display His grace and mercy. It is on our knees that we make a deliberate calculation to accept sacrifice and suffering for the sake of following Christ. I urge you, if you haven't done so already, to make a conscious decision today to become a servant rather than to be served. This is the message Becky and I will be spreading everywhere we go in Ethiopia. May all who hear it run to it and embrace it!

12:14 PM Here's a shout out to Henry and Jody Neufeld. Thanks for your prayers!

11:50 AM Jon Glass is preaching through the entire Bible in 5 weeks. You heard me right. 5 weeks! You can listen to his first message here.

Quotable quote: "If you can believe Genesis 1:1, you can believe the rest."

10:23 AM Top 10 Things I Love About Ethiopia:

10) The smell of open-air fires.

9) The near-perfect climate ("13 months of sunshine")

8) The word "Ishee"

7) The amazing natural beauty

6) The fantastic food (especially doro wat)

5) The stares I get :)

4) The coffee drink called macchiato

3)  The steadfastness of the church under severe persecution

2) The many friends and family we have there

And the # 1 thing I love about Ethiopia:

1) The Ethiopian girl I married!

8:28 AM Good morning, bloggerites!

It's up! The prayer itinerary for our trip, that is. Makes me tired just reading it. It all starts with Becky's flights today. I have never been more excited to go to Ethiopia than I am now (except, of course, for the last trip I made there, or the one before that, or the one before that one -- LOL!). As you read it and pray for us, please remember that authentic Christianity is not only for foreign missionaries or something that happens only on faraway fields or in the pages of the Bible. It can blossom forth on the street where you live. It is for every believer, wherever we live and whatever we do for a living.

I sense that during this trip Becky and I will have to overcome many unseen spiritual forces. If our trip is not built on prayer, if we do not move out in complete reliance on the Lord, all will be in vain. THANK YOU for your faithful prayers on our behalf.

Off to do my farm chores.

Tuesday, March 16

9:42 PM Not much of interest here. Tomorrow we leave the farm at 12:45 pm to get Becky to RDU for her 5:15 UAL flight to Dulles and thence to Addis on EAL. She has us all packed and organized, though complete preparedness is always an illusion when traveling abroad. Time rushes past as if it were trying to win the Kentucky Derby, and it will be no time at all and we will be back home again after our Ethiopian adventure. This trip will be a whirlwind from Addis down to Burji then to Alaba then back to Addis. (We are very sorry to have to forego a visit to the churches in Gondar in the north.) I am leaving on Thursday in order to capitalize on some frequent flyer miles I've got with Lufthansa, and Bec and I will meet up in the capital. On Saturday we'll scramble down to Burji and revisit the churches there, and then will do the same thing in Alaba. I'm taking with me on my flights a few chapters from my book on Paul, hoping to pare them down a bit. I find the desire for lucidity grows in me -- not mere simplification, but clean dissection and clear exposition of as much of the complexity of things as I can dig into. Tomorrow I will post (Lord willing) a daily prayer itinerary in case you'd like to "go with us" to Ethiopia. I do hope you'll come along. As I go my prayer is simply, "Lord, break my heart with the things that break your heart. Help me to see the world as you do and to live each day with eternity in view."

Monday, March 15

7:55 PM Nick Norelli's church has a new website. Congratulations, brother Nick! I really appreciated this statement:

We are not nationalists seeking to simply improve one nation but instead ambassadors of the King of Kings commissioned to proclaim and demonstrate the coming of His kingdom to all nations of the earth.


6:40 PM In case you didn't know where Utopia was located...

6:08 PM This photo shows a prayer meeting in Gondar, Ethiopia, in the Messerete Christos (Mennonite) church.

They had gathered to pray specifically for Becky. Is it because of their prayers that Becky is able to return to her home away from home this week? Or perhaps because of your prayers? I do know that many hundreds if not thousands of saints have been interceding on her behalf since she was diagnosed with cancer. Personally, I want to say a big "Thank You" to everyone who invested even a minute of their time praying for my precious wife. So far her white count has remained steady, so barring another broken toe (!) she will be boarding her flight for DC this Wednesday afternoon and arriving in Addis Thursday night. Lord willing, I'll meet up with her a day later. A dream come true -- and an answer to prayer. To God alone goes all the glory.

5:50 PM Update: Richard Sugg comes to the rescue and sends along a link to this NPR story: Former 'No Child Left Behind' Advocate Turns Critic. The author is Diane Ravitch, and her book is The Death and Life of the Great American School System. Thanks, Richard! You're a genius!

3:37 PM One of the tribes I hope against hope to be able to revisit either now or in July are the warlike Gujis who live next to the Burjis. Since my preaching tour in Gujiland a couple of years ago I've developed an even greater appreciation for Jesus' Sermon on the Mount and His teachings about peace-making, love of enemy, and kingdom ethics. I say this as one who formerly sympathized with the religious right and its false gospel of neoconservative ideology. (Phyllis Schafly once said, "The atomic bomb is a marvelous gift that was given to our country by God." At one time I would have found nothing objectionable in her statement.) The Bible I read speaks of radical reconciliation. My evangelical theology assures me that no tribal conflict is beyond the reach of the redemption that is found in Christ Jesus. Please pray that I will be able to revisit this precious tribe whom God loves and for whom His Son died.

Below: Farmer to farmer, I present a bag of seeds to the mayor of a town in Gujiland. Later that day I preached unopposed in the village square, and then we showed the Jesus Film that night.

3:14 PM For the life of me I can't remember the name of the author of a new book on public education who was being interviewed this week on NPR. Nor can I recall the title of her book. (Read: Senility.) In the interview she was complaining about Bush's "No Child Left Behind Act." (Yes, this is the same George W. Bush who once famously said, "Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?") She thought that the act merely exacerbated the crisis in public education by compelling teachers to "teach to the test." I had to smile when I heard that, since my Greek students know that I "teach to the test" and that if they are going to pass my class they had better "study to the test." I'm not sure that "teaching to the test" is all that inimical to learning. Perhaps foreign language courses are an exception to the rule? In my New Testament introduction classes I long ago threw out exams (unless they were of an essay nature), and instead I tend to require assignments that involve research and writing.

What do you think? It is counterproductive to teach to the test?

3:10 PM How are your flowers doing? Ours have begun to shoot up in glorious defiance of winter. Beautiful!

1:11 PM Today I wrote that

... the corporate gathering of the church is not the fulfillment most churchgoers believe it to be. It is just the beginning. The gathering is merely the commissioning!

My essay is called Back to Ethiopia and I have just added it to our home page. You might take a moment to read the whole thing, especially if you're suffering from a bad case of insomnia.

11:10 AM Can you believe it? Only 25 years ago today the first dotcom name was registered, according to this BBC report, which notes:

An estimated 1.7 billion people - one quarter of the world's population - now use the internet.

Who would have thunk it 25 years ago?

So what's the payoff? How are you using the power of the internet for the kingdom?

10:28 AM What I have been up to today?

1) Reviewing my Latin grammar. Yep, I do this all the time. Use it or lose it.

2) Exegeting 1 Thess 2:13-16 for class tomorrow. This passage, by the way, is widely used to "prove" that Paul was an anti-Semite, if you can believe that. Here's a very rough draft of my structural diagram of the passage.

3) Checking up on Chloe's precious little puppies. Everyone seems healthy and happy. Don't you love their coloring?

4) Walking the pastures. See how green the Lord has made them? In only 2 months we'll be cutting over 50 acres of this luscious hay.

5) Feeding the cattle, including these Jersey bulls. The fellow you see in the foreground will end up in our freezer this fall.

I never tire of the variety of the work here on the farm and the balance it affords me between intellectual stimulation and just plain hard physical labor. I'll miss it when I leave for Ethiopia!

10:12 AM A huge shout out and thank you to those who participated in our Ethiopia Celebration last night at Bethel Hill, including the Creekside Quartet, who volunteered their time and effort for the Cause of causes. Thank you, gentlemen. Loved your music!

I also want to thank the young men of the church (and their older advisors) for helping me put the grommets in an awning Becky and I are taking with us to Ethiopia this week. We'll use it whenever we set up for outdoor teaching to provide some shade for our students (especially the elderly). I loved the eagerness with which the youth jumped on this project. Thank you brother Joel for "releasing" them to me on the spur of the moment. I couldn't have done it without their help!

Singing last night was also our very own Bethel Hill Singers...

... as well as Jamie Huff from Bethany Baptist. Jamie, a pharmacist, is a veteran Ethiopia team member. He'll be returning to Burji this summer. Glad you're going back with us, brother Jamie!

I especially want to thank Miss Leigh for organizing last night's celebration. It was truly a phenomenal time of praising the Lord of the Harvest!

8:56 AM Good Monday morning, blogging buds!

As some of you may know, I'm taking a little break from my Godworld project to work on a revision of my 1984 book Paul, Apostle of Weakness. (By the way, it's getting less little by the day.) I've got only 2 chapters to go out of 6, and I've set a personal goal of having the book to the publisher by the end of summer. I believe that Paul discovered the quintessential expression of biblical discipleship -- the cross. Every fiber in my being desires to have that same perspective on life. I'm coming to recognize the wisdom and beauty of the cross in God's plan for my life and in the life of every believer. How we vote won't change the world. How we "do" worship won't either. Our educational attainments (and this includes Greek) are meaningless without the cross. The only thing that will change the world is how we live. Are we willing to bleed in order to manifest God's love to others? That is the fundamental question I am raising in my book. If I'm correct, God delights in taking weak but yielded nothings and transforming them into powerful world-changing vehicles of His love. What a privilege! And what a responsibility!

The fact is that we're not getting the job done. Not only this, but the massive irony is that at no other time in history has the church in North America been better situated to take the Gospel to every nation on earth. Yet we remain preoccupied with our own comfort and ease rather than with serving the world sacrificially. Studying Paul's teaching on weakness has reminded me that Christians can place their trust in only one thing -- the cross. Because of this, I find myself passionate in my opposition to the politicized Jesus of modern evangelicalism. (Have you noticed?)

I have about 90 students in my 3 classes this semester. My goal is to equip and energize them to evangelize and mobilize their world for Christ. I'm looking for revolutionaries who will commit themselves to praying for transformation and then involving themselves to go wide with the Gospel personally. I'm looking for Christian radicals who will filter every aspect of their lives through the Gospel and who will do a gut check to see if they are really willing to carry the cross. When you think about it, the Christian life is not complicated. You just live every day with the intentional goal to exponentially advance the kingdom of God. It's the core purpose of this blog and of my life to successfully merge academics and missions. I am striving for a maximum kingdom impact in my own life and in the lives of my students. At the same time I want to be clear that I haven't yet arrived. I still get caught up in distractions and forget what truly matters. But I am a big believer in the principle that if we take a few small steps in the right direction, God can build momentum into our lives.

Please pray for me. I want to learn how to wash other people's feet and to preach the uncompromised truth of the Gospel with an attitude of undeniable love for others.

Thanks a bunch,

Brother Dave

Sunday, March 14

8:34 AM One of our Haven of Rest CDs had this old hymn on it. It blesses and challenges me every time I listen to it. Here are the words:

  • “On the cross of Calvary, Bearing the shame and agony,
    Jesus paid sin’s penalty, That fallen man might be free.

    But death and hell could not hold Him prey; He rose triumphant -- glorious day!
    Soon He’s coming back again In power and glory to reign.

    “From the cross of Calvary Shineth the Light of Life so free.
    Sinner, “Look and live,” saith He; Pardon is offered to thee.

    Why will you perish? He took your place -- Cancelled the debt for Adam’s race.
    Mercy’s door is still ajar; Come to Him just as you are.”

    -- David Livingstone Ives

Did you notice that oh-so-powerful line?

"Mercy's door is still ajar."

It's still ajar, friends! It's still ajar for the nations of the world. But one day it will CLOSE!

That line haunts me. And I doing everything I possibly can to see that the nations believe and obey?

"Mercy's door is still ajar."

8:18 AM In case you should have nothing better to do with your time, mosey on over to Lionel Woods' site. There you'll find a magnificently-written post about the bankruptcy of politics. The accounts I read of the recent debates over health care have a strange similarity to those Homer gives of Hades -- a place of acute despair. It certainly looks as though an age of tyranny is before us, inasmuch as such large-scale social engineering must inevitably impose tyranny. It produces problems too complex to solve except by bureaucratic "planning," which always leads to more planning, which always means more and more bureaucracy and tyranny. I see no hope in politics whatsoever. The notion that we can "fix" the world through political means is a lie that has fueled the worst kinds of demonic arrogance. Jesus' way is different. It is the way of sacrificial love. And it is the only way.

7:57 AM As a late winter storm, majestic in its fury, passed over the farm, we gathered for supper last night at Bradford Hall.

The Blacks were here ...

... as was Miss Rachael, a friend of ours from the seminary.

Nolan seems to be enjoying life in our kitchen.

And here he is eating. He has discovered that he can hold on to the spoon with his teeth.

And what a great evening!  

Saturday, March 13

5:16 PM We have a guest for supper tonight. She brought a delicious-looking chocolate cake too.

5:05 PM Team work. That's what farming is all about. I'd hate to think of doing all the farm work by myself, or for Nate to do it all by himself either. For example, we have fenced and cross-fenced all 123 acres of our farm, together. It would have taken a lot longer if Nate had tried to do it by himself. In fact, I doubt that it could have been done by one person. Plus, working together is just plain fun. A good fun. A difficult fun. A fun-that-puts-you-to-bed-tired-but-happy kind of fun. I enjoy it immensely. Nate works me to death, but it keeps me in shape for all the walking we do in Ethiopia. I love it!

Below: I'm tossing hay bales to Nate who stacks them in the trailer.

We distribute them for our night feeding.

A few of the happy recipients of all of our team work.

So, let's always remember the importance of team work on a farm. It works in the church too!

2:40 PM This message is for Caleb. Caleb, here's a picture of a really pretty feather I found while Uncle Nathan and I were working down near the creek today.

I believe it once belonged to a turkey. I know you're collecting feathers so I'll save it for you. You can get it when you come to visit Mama B and me on Monday. I hope you like it. I love you bunches. Papa B

2:34 PM How are yall doing on this absolutely gorgeous Saturday afternoon? We've been as busy as beavers here on the farm. Today Nate and I completed a project that had been waiting in the wings for far too long. We took advantage of the break in the rain to finish cross-fencing a 40-acre section of the farm. Now we have two 20-acre sections! Here's Nate building the gate between these sections.

My job as gofer, nail pounder, and, of course, photographer, was very taxing!

All that was left was for us to run one stand of barbed wire along the top of the woven wire fence, and --

-- voilà! Have you ever seen a purdier fence in all youse life? As I type, Nate is moving the bulls into this pasture. No force or coaxing necessary. They just follow him (as in John 10) -- usually!

Becky, meanwhile, has been getting us packed for our trip. Here are some stamps she designed and printed for the Galana clinic.

This is just one of several stamps that will make the operation of the clinic more organized. "BKHC" stands for "Burji Kale Heywot Church," the association of local evangelical churches we work with in this part of Ethiopia.

These SD cards will carry the Bible teaching of J. Vernon McGee to the Burjis and the Gujis in both Amharic and Orominya.

So the good work goes on. How much fun!

8:28 AM In his essay Convoluted Priorities, Jerry Rankin shows that the battle for the Great Commission will be fought on the soil of each local church in the SBC. If the Great Commission does not pose a radical challenge to the status quo in our churches and in the way we are prioritizing our time, resources, and energies, it will be our own fault. I am sure that, while a retooling of our priorities calls for immense patience and love, it does not allow any slacking of effort or prayer. It is not yet clear to me how the renewed emphasis on global missions will be seen in the perspective of history. Yet in my mind, nothing can remove from the Gospel the absolute imperative of equality (2 Cor. 8:13). I am positive that, as long as I have breath in my body, I must continue to call the church in North America to repent of our waste and extravagance.

7:58 AM Today Robyn Blumner sounds the patriotism alarm in a fine essay called Real Patriots Uphold Our Values and cites a delightful story from the American Revolution along the way. A sampler:

Lawyers who represent clients charged as our enemies contribute to making our legal system an honorable one. That, along with providing fair trials, not holding anyone indefinitely without charge, and treating prisoners in a way we would want Americans to be treated by a foreign power, makes up the ideals of our founders and nation.

My take?

  • True patriotism is love of country, not love of government. Neo-patriotism is mindless worship of the state.

  • True patriots refuse to honor government above God. Neo-patriots gladly deify government.

  • True patriots understand loyalty as adherence to the ideals upon which the country was founded. Neo-patriots believe in blind submission to the bureaucrats currently running it.

  • True patriots believe that eternal vigilance is necessary to keep politicians under check. Neo-patriots are willing to entrust their lives to politicians thinking this means loyalty to the ideals spelled out in the Constitution.

  • Neo-patriots think that if you criticize U.S. foreign policy or the country's obsession with security you are "unpatriotic." True patriots believe that the exercise of critical judgment is absolutely necessary to any civilization that is to stand or forge ahead, and that it is both their right and duty to criticize their government.

In the final analysis, I concur with President Theodore Roosevelt who said, "Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the President or any other public official save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country."

7:40 AM In my book Paul, Apostle of Weakness, I spend a good deal of time discussing Paul's infamous and puzzling "thorn in the flesh."

We don't know what it was exactly. Some say it was epilepsy. Others believe it had something to do with his eyes. Still others think Paul was referring to his enemies. Perhaps the most widely offered suggestion in Christian history is that Paul suffered from chronic headaches. Today many scholars believe that these headaches were caused by a particularly violent type of malaria that was prevalent in Asia Minor. Sufferers described their headaches as stakes turning round and round in their heads. Thus it is quite possible that Paul's "thorn" (= stake!) was malaria. He had, however, learned to accept it and to view it, not as a burden, but as something through which the grace of God came to him.

Yesterday I was asked if I am careful to take my anti-malaria medications when I travel to Ethiopia. The answer, of course, is a very definite YES. But the truth is that medicine is no absolute guarantee that one won't come down with the disease. This will be my first trip back to Ethiopia since my hospitalization with malaria last summer. I am not anxious about it. If I should have a recurrence, so be it. It will be God's will, though certainly not mine. This does not make me a hero. Christians in Ethiopia suffer far worse. Yet frankly I am glad that I am now better able to identify, as least partly, with the malaria sufferers I will encounter in Ethiopia, especially in Alaba where malaria in endemic. Believe me, their pain will not go unnoticed.

7:14 AM One of the books I read this week was a biography of William Barclay. Barclay believed that the Christian life has a three-tiered structure:

1) The Christian life is shaped and directed by the love of God.

2) The Christian life is a life of love.

3) The Christian life is a life of sacrifice.

From his study of the New Testament Barclay concluded that

The Christian was not only one who made a profession of faith in Christ; he was one who did things for Master.... Christ himself came not to be ministered unto but to minister; like Christ, the Christian was a servant seeking to minister to others in whatever way possible.

This is truly the crux of the Christian life. Doctrine must be experienced, and love must be at core of it all. We have been placed on this earth, not to get but to give. This too is my belief, and I hope to make it my way.

(Of course, theology is not to be minimized along the way, and I certainly don't agree with many of Barclay's positions. Some say he was a universalist -- a view that I find abhorrent!)

Any good biographies you've read lately?

6:57 AM Over at the Poulos Blog, Alex reviews Invitation to the Septuagint, one of the textbooks Bob Cole and I are requiring in our LXX class this fall. I heartily agree with his conclusion:

I don’t know of a better introductory book, and it’s a fantastic way to acquaint oneself with the amazing document that is the LXX.

Friday, March 12

9:22 PM Just read through Ruth in its entirety. What marvelous word plays the book contains. Bethlehem (Place of Food) experiences a famine! Mr. "No Name" shows up in 4:1! I go could on and on.

Above all, what a message the book contains: God loves the poor and needy. And He richly rewards people like Boaz who demonstrate steadfast love by helping them. To all those who this very day are sacrificially loving others in the name of Jesus -- may He reward you bountifully for your love!

P.S. I love 3:11, where Boaz says to Ruth, "The whole town knows that you are a woman who has strength of character."

Boaz was attracted to a strong woman, and some of us have the privilege of being married to one -- strength of character, strength of conviction, strength of spirit and mind. Can there be a greater blessing?  

9:08 PM The Blacks visited us this evening. I'm amazed at how quickly Nolan is growing up. He's now got 8 teeth and more on the way.

I look at his dad and I look at Nolan and I am reminded of that wonderful old saying, "The child is father to the man." There's Nathan, who I remember when he was Nolan's age as if it were yesterday. And then there's Nolan -- at the very beginning of life, in full potential and not yet marred by the passage of time or the assaults of disease and age. What a blessing. What a blessing. 

4:28 PM Here's a partial list of churches in Person County, NC (pop. 38,000):

Allen Chapel Person Roxboro
Allensville United Methodist Church Person Roxboro
Antioch Baptist Church Person Timberlake
Baileys Chapel Methodist Church Person Cluster Springs
Bethany Baptist Church Person Moriah
Bethel Hill Baptist Church Person Cluster Springs
Brookland United Methodist Church Person Timberlake
Calvary Baptist Church Person Virgilina
Ca-Vel First Baptist Church Person Roxboro
Cedar Grove Baptist Church Person Roxboro
Chestnut Grove Baptist Church Person Alton
Chub Lake Church Person Roxboro
Cleggs Chapel Missionary Baptist Church Person Timberlake
Clement Missionary Baptist Church Person Hurdle Mills
Concord United Methodist Church Person Olive Hill
Ebenezer Primitive Baptist Church Person Leasburg
Elijah Grove Church Person Virgilina
Ephesus Church Person Alton
Faith Church Person Timberlake
First Baptist Church Person Roxboro
Flat River Primitive Baptist Church Person Timberlake
Friendship Church Person Roxboro
Front Street Church Person Roxboro
Grace Church Person Roxboro
Helena Primitive Baptist Church Person Timberlake
Helena United Methodist Church Person Timberlake
Hesters Grove Church Person Ridgeville
High View Baptist Church Person Virgilina
Hyco Zion Baptist Church Person Olive Hill
Jones Chapel Baptist Church Person Roxboro
Lamberth Memorial Baptist Church Person Olive Hill
Lawson Chapel Baptist Church Person Roxboro
Leas Chapel United Methodist Church Person Olive Hill
Mebane Memorial Presbyterian Church Person Roxboro
Mill Creek Baptist Church Person Roxboro
Mill Hill Church Person Olive Hill
Montwood Church Person Roxboro
Mount Gideon Church Person Triple Springs
Mount Harmony Baptist Church Person Moriah
Mount Tirzah United Methodist Church Person Timberlake
Mount Zion Church Person Olive Hill
Mount Zion United Methodist Church Person Hurdle Mills
Mountain Road Church Person Roxboro
New Ephesus Church Person Alton
New Hope Church Person Timberlake
New Mount Zion Baptist Church Person Roxboro
New Saint James Church Person Moriah
Oak Grove United Methodist Church Person Olive Hill
Obies Chapel Person Caldwell
Oby Church Person Timberlake
Olive Branch Baptist Church Person Triple Springs
Olive Grove Church Person Leasburg
Paschall Church Person Hurdle Mills
Pine Hill Church Person Hurdle Mills
Providence Baptist Church Person Roxboro
Rock Grove Baptist Church Person Roxboro
Saint Pauls Church Person Triple Springs
Salem United Methodist Church Person Ridgeville
Shady Hill Missionary Baptist Church Person Timberlake
Shiloh Primitive Baptist Church Person Roxboro
Siloam Church Person Moriah
Storys Creek Church Person Olive Hill
Surl Primitive Baptist Church Person Timberlake
Theresa Baptist Church Person Roxboro
Trenton Church Person Moriah
Trinity Church Person Moriah
Vernon Hill Church Person Triple Springs
Webb Church Person Triple Springs
Westwood Baptist Church Person Olive Hill
Wheelers Church Person Hurdle Mills
Wilderness Church Person Hurdle Mills
Youngs Chapel Person Hurdle Mills
Zion Level Baptist Church Person Olive Hill

And here's a list of churches among the 611,000 people called the Bishnoi of India:
















I ask you: Where is the greater need for our time, energy, and financial resources?

If we evangelicals are going to reach the unreached peoples of this world, things are going to have to change in our local churches. My advice? If God has indeed called us to take up His cause, we should partner together with whatever other like-minded churches there are in our area who are are willing to catch this vision, call on believers to make radical sacrifices for it to happen, and put together a huge volunteer force to get the job done.

Now the glory would go to God instead of our local church or denomination.

Now the scales would be balanced between the haves and the have-nots.

Now we could stop asking missionary agencies to do what we should be doing.

Now we would be supporting the work of the kingdom rather than spending most of our wealth on ourselves.

And now God's transnational kingdom would advance.

Think about it.

And get busy being Great Commission churches.

3:35 PM I invite political activists and social reformers to contemplate the words of Allan Bevere in his latest post called On Why the Culture of Corruption in Washington Will Only Get Worse and then tell me with a straight face that politics has a chance of rescuing us by pursuing reform within the system. Allan writes:

With more power government acts more and more like an overbearing parent who treats the American people like children who do not know what's good for them. How else can the current irrational push to pass a terrible health care reform bill in light of clear opposition from the American people be explained?

Ah yes, we shall all live happily ever after once we have socialized health care in the United States. Whadya say? We already do?!!??

3:25 PM Looks like the adoption process in Ethiopia has just gotten longer

3:13 PM Just back from the UNC Ambulatory Care Center in Chapel Hill. Guess who has a broken toe? Yep. Its her left pinky. The doc's got her all fixed up, though, with a special shoe, just in time for all the trekking she'll be doing in the mountains of Burji. Speaking of Utopia, after our doctor's visit we lunched at the Queen of Sheba, where we became reacquainted with our old friend Friesh who used to operate the Blue Nile restaurant in Durham.

The food, the ambience, the music -- all was wonderful, and we highly recommend you pay it a visit the next time you're in Chapel Hill. For directions and a menu go here.

Thank you, Friesh, for a wonderful dining experience. We felt right "at home."

8:24 AM We've just added another essay to our Spanish files. It's by Becky and is called Dios no me hizo para Sufrir (Parte II). Part 3 forthcoming.

7:38 AM Alan Knox has been posting his thoughts about the church meeting, carefully examining the key texts from the book of Acts. And a fine series it is too. His descriptions are often glowing, as well they should be. Passages such as Acts 2:41-47 are not unrealistic ideals, lovely to contemplate but impossible to realize. They describe normal Body health. If our churches do not enjoy the same measure of health, the problem is not in the book of Acts. I have a sneaking suspicion that it will take a major crisis in America for the church to go from abnormal or subnormal to normal. "Nominal" Christianity is an abomination and the sooner we are rid of it the better. 

7:34 AM T. C. Robinson writes:

Something is terribly wrong when we invest in such things as Praise & Worship Seminars and Conferences and Workshops, and so forth.

Our fellowships don’t need professionals who’ve been to seminars and the like.  They just need to release their Spirit-anointing (Eph. 5:18-21).

I agree, mostly. I would prefer to begin the discussion in Eph. 5:15, where Paul describes the difference between wise and foolish living. It is the height of folly to think that worship is the purpose of the gathered church. It most certainly is not (see Rom. 12:1-2).

I've written more here: Enter to Serve, Depart to Worship.

7:12 AM Once Jesus was in a ship, but with Him were "other little ships" (Mark 4:36).

Today the main ship of the church is Lordship. Once we settle the issue of who's the boss in our churches, all the other little ships will fall into palace -- worship, fellowship, discipleship, and stewardship. But the bottom line is this: God's work must be done in God's way. We American Christians easily get the idea that churches are like civic clubs or community organizations. They are not! We often think that America is a Christian nation. It is not! (This is especially hard for us to get right. Just try removing the American flag from your church building and see what an uproar that would cause.) Christians are members of a holy nation ruled in love by the Lord of the universe. If we don't get this matter of Lordship right, we will certainly fail the test of every other "ship" out there.

7:03 AM Good thoughts on heresy by Eric Carpenter. He writes:

When it comes to heresy, we Christians have a tendency to either use the "h-bomb" too carelessly or not at all. Despite what may be good intentions (or not), we on the one hand declare beliefs and practices to be heretical which are not, or on the other hand we shy away from calling anything heretical at all. Simply put, we either use the word too much or too little.

He is right. To be a Christian today we must have the heart of a child and the rind of a rhinoceros. The danger is that along with standing for the truth we will harden our hearts toward people. There are some teachings in the church today that are not to be accepted but rather challenged and (hopefully) corrected. In all of this, however, the serpent's wisdom must be balanced by the innocent of the dove. God grant us balance.  

Thursday, March 11

8:59 PM Deo volente, in exactly one week Becky will be arriving at Bole Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia!!! I am SO excited for her. (I will arrive a day later as this will save us some money.) You can take the little girl out of Ethiopia, but you can never take Ethiopia out of the little girl.

8:45 PM Becky's watching on old Waltons episode tonight.

Me: "That's what I'm becoming in our family -- the old man." (Referring to John Walton's dad affectionately known as "Grandpa").

Becky: "Yes, but you need the stomach to match."

8:27 PM My assistant just pdf-ed me a copy of Jan Lambrecht's article "Paulus vermag alles door de kracht van God; zwakheid en sterkte." Lambrecht is one of my all-time favorite authors.

The article appeared in the Nederlands Theologisch Tijdschrift. Lambrecht summarizes Paul's theology in the latter's own words:

Als ik swak ben, dan ben ik sterk.

No truer words were ever spoken. God's means of making us strong is by making us weaker and weaker until the divine power alone in seen in our lives.

Oh God, break me down until Thy power alone is seen in me!

7:55 PM My time on campus today was a blast. I trust the Holy Spirit was at work too. I had never been to the vet campus before so I helped myself to a little tour before my talk. I felt right at home -- horse stables, chicken houses, hay barns, etc. It is a really huge campus and an expanding one too. I counted at least three new buildings going up on the south campus. At the same time, the student body is fairly small -- only about 80 students in each class.

My lecture today was given in a theater style classroom that reminded me of the lecture halls in Basel. I'd say about 50-60 people were present, including a couple of faculty members. The biggest challenge for me was deciding on what to focus on. I chose to hone in on three areas:

1) Are there contradictions in the New Testament? (Apparently so, but each "contradiction" I believe has a plausible explanation that does not require us to surrender belief in the Bible's inspiration. My example came from the temptation narratives in Matthew and Luke.)

2) Was the text of the New Testament corrupted in transmission? (Again, the answer is a qualified yes, but through the art and science of New Testament textual criticism we can reconstruct a text that approximates the original. Of course, I'm not always sure whether the correct reading is printed in the text of my Greek New Testament or in the apparatus, but it's my humble opinion that we haven't lost a single word of the New Testament despite the failures in its transmission. I used Matt. 5:22 as an example of this.)

3) Can we apply insights from secular science to the study of the New Testament documents? (Again, the answer is yes, and I tried to illustrate this by giving a few examples from linguistics and psychology.)

I also brought along some books and a couple of essays from my website that I thought vet students might be interested in. The most popular one by far was My Horses, My Teachers. My goal was to get behind the worldview wall that so many university students throw up. Only God knows if I was successful. I will gladly leave the results in His hands!

Thank you for your emails, for your prayers, and above all for your love for the lost. I can't wait to do it again! 

7:32 PM Isn't You Tube phenomenal? We've already had over 200 views of our Greek DVD clip, and just today we received two more orders, praise be to God!

Here's another very brief clip I uploaded to You Tube this evening.

It shows a believer in Burji who has just been fitted for reading glasses. Just think -- here's someone who has not been able to read his Bible for years (and Amharic script is teeny tiny), but because of a gift from his brothers and sisters in America he can see the words again and they're not just one big blur. We haven't kept track of exactly how many reading glasses we've distributed in Ethiopia, but it numbers in the thousands. When I look at this clip I think: Who was that individual in America whom the Lord led to drive to Dollar Tree and spend time and effort and money to purchase this pair of non-prescription reading glasses and then send it on to us? We don't know who that person was, but God does. May He bless him or her for it.

3:28 PM Texas rules!

3:20 PM Quick update:

1) Had a great time at NC State! More later.

2) If God is appointing you to help with the rabies treatment, please make your checks payable to Bethel Hill Baptist Church, write "Operation Ethiopia, rabies" in the memo section, and send them to Becky Lynn Black, 2691 White House Rd., Nelson VA 24580. Thank you again!

8:15 AM Ever been bitten by a dog? I have. I was about 8, and the dog left deep teeth marks. Sure glad it wasn't rabid. In Ethiopia, rabies is a huge problem. A rabid dog bite is fatal. Unless....

You can get the whole story in Becky's latest essay posted on our home page. It's called, simply, Rabies. Read it, then ask the Lord Jesus what you might do to help.

7:50 AM In Matt. 28:19-20, Jesus tells us to go deep and wide. We go wide through evangelism and deep through discipleship/edification. Both are commanded, and both are necessary. Today, as you know, I'll be speaking at North Carolina State University's School of Veterinary Medicine.

I'll be talking to a group of disciples who want their friends to become disciples who will make other disciples who in turn will make more -- and the process goes on and on.

I am really excited to be among a group of university students again. I spent 9 years studying at Biola University (earning 2 degrees) and 3 years studying at the University of Basel. Before I left Hawaii for California in 1971, I had taken courses at the University of Hawaii. God loves university students! There are a smart bunch who demand significance in their lives. University students are uniquely poised to merge business and ministry for maximum kingdom impact. In Switzerland I once heard Francis Schaeffer say that when you become a Christian you don't have to put your brain in park or neutral. Thinking people can be followers of Jesus!

For those of you who are reading this blog right now, thanks for joining me in my journey. I look forward to doing my best to represent the Lord of lords today at NC State but I need your prayers. If you don't mind, send me an email and let me know you're joining my "prayer team" today.

Thank you God for giving me a zeal for the Gospel of your Son Jesus Christ! Will you grant me your power and wisdom as I seek to make disciples for your honor today?

7:38 AM Quote of the day:

I would like to encourage you, whatever trials you might be going through, to accept the reality of their difficulty, and choose to praise God at the same time. No matter what you're going through, there is no greater hope or joy I can offer you.

Read Jesus wept.

7:28 AM I've begun reading Henkel's Kraft in Schwachheit and am loving it. After all, he mentions my Paul, Apostle of Weakness on the very first page! I had to smile, though, when he quotes me as saying (p. 141, n. 103) "the continuous aspect of weakness in Paul's life ist [sic] emphasized." Jawohl!

7:04 AM And the winner is Jason Kees, who correctly identified the book as Ruth. My thanks to all who played!

Last night I re-read all four chapters of this superbly-crafted little book in Greek. What wonderful lessons it contains -- grammatically and spiritually! 

Wednesday, March 10

7:55 PM Quote of the day (Arthur Sido):

There is simply no way to know who a man really is based on listening to a couple of prepared sermons and going through a couple of interviews. That is why elders should be called from among the men of the church, not hired in from outside of the local body based on extra-Biblical qualifications.

7:39 PM It's late and I'm tired but if I don't post this now I might forget tomorrow. Here's a picture of what my office desk looked like this afternoon.

I was sorting through all the books and articles related to weakness that I need to work through before I get down to writing the last chapter of my revised Paul, Apostle of Weakness. I actually counted them too. Thus far Andy Bowden has collected 18 books and 48 journal articles for me to read. Tomorrow evening I plan to go through two of them with a fine toothed comb: Die Starken und die Schwachen in Korinth und Rom by Volker Gäckle, and Kraft in Schwachheit by Ulrich Heckel. The first book has 636 pages, while the second has a mere 390. Excited to see what God is going to teach me through reading these works.

7:20 PM Man, I am so blessed to be able to teach the LXX course with brother Robert Cole this fall. We will be meeting on Wednesdays from 12:30 to 3:20. Hope to see many of you there. Today we decided on the book we will be exegeting in depth from both the Hebrew and Greek texts. It's short, sweet, and one of the best examples of rhetorical artistry in the entire Hebrew Bible. What book am I talking about? Here's a picture of the Greek text.

Care to guess? The first person to write me with the correct answer gets a free copy of Christian Archy. (I love contests!)

Students have been asking for this course for a long time. God has truly blessed their prayers. Now my prayer is that the Holy Spirit will use it in all of our lives to make us better interpreters and doers of God's Holy Word!

6:55 PM I got the most wonderful message on my office answering machine today while was I in class. Becky called to say that Chloe had just given birth to 5 puppies and that she (Becky) had been called in to "baby-sit" the pups while Nate and Jess ran a couple of errands. Which meant that I couldn't wait to get home to snap a couple of pix for posterity. Here's one of them for your evening entertainment. I don't think I've ever seen sweeter puppies. Congratulations to the proud mama.

5:58 PM On this day in 1528.

5:53 PM Fellow Greek students: Rod Decker calls our attention to a discount on the Greek New Testament published by the United Bible Societies. Check it out before purchasing yours.

5:50 PM Lee University announces an opening in Theological Ethics.

5:45 PM To answer Andy's question: The reason we don't admit our sins and faults to one another is because a spirit of deep sleep has lulled us into the stupor of a fool's paradise. We therefore treat symptoms rather than the disease. But to treat cancer with temporary palliatives without getting at the cancer is to endanger the victim still more.

And pastors? Pastors do not acknowledge their weaknesses and faults because they are afraid of losing either their status or their jobs.

The fact is, God uses broken things. He uses broken sod to produce grain, broken grain to produce bread, and broken bread to feed our bodies. King Saul in the Old Testament was never broken and he killed himself. Pharisee Saul in the New Testament was broken and became Paul.

5:40 PM Quote of the day:

Tent making is actually something that we see lots of in the New Testament. Disciples who were fishermen, tax collectors, tent makers, physicians, doing the work of the kingdom, out there preaching, teaching, caring for people. Pastors with skills that can be used in the so-called secular world. Yep that’s me.

Read On Working In 2 Tents.

5:34 PM I've been thinking…

The most dangerous tool in Satan's arsenal is distraction. He loves to distract us with things that don't matter. It won't matter in the end of time whether or not we had fancy buildings in which to worship God. It won't matter in the Day of Judgment whether we had impressive programs in our churches. It won't matter one bit when Jesus returns whether or nor we voted for the "right" politicians. The only thing that matters is that we live as good citizens of heaven in a manner that is worthy of the Gospel. This is Paul's word to us in Phil. 1:27. Listen friends, when Paul says "The only thing that matters" he means "The ONLY thing that matters." We ought to ask God to test our hearts to see whether living radically for the Gospel is truly the only thing that matters to us. We need to be cultivating relationships with non-believers in our communities and around the world with a view to introducing them to the most radical, revolutionary Person the world has ever known. Paul perfectly illustrates the point: Here was a man who was totally consumed with the Gospel to the point of giving his life for it. Here was a man who sacrificed all the comforts of his good life in Tarsus to experience suffering because he loved other people more than he loved himself. Here is Paul in his own words:

Since you admire the egomaniacs of the pulpit so much (remember, this is your old friend, the fool, talking), let me try my hand at it. Do they brag of being Hebrews, Israelites, the pure race of Abraham? I'm their match. Are they servants of Christ? I can go them one better. (I can't believe I'm saying these things. It's crazy to talk this way! But I started, and I'm going to finish.) I've worked much harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count, and at death's door time after time. I've been flogged five times with the Jews' thirty-nine lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, pummeled with rocks once. I've been shipwrecked three times, and immersed in the open sea for a night and a day. In hard traveling year in and year out, I've had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends, struggle with foes. I've been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers. I've known drudgery and hard labor, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather.

Wow! Anyone you know ever suffered like that for the Gospel? Listen friends, our world today has 6.4 billion individuals living in 234 geo-political nations with over 16,000 people groups. Of those people groups, more than 6,900 remain least-reached. This simply means they are a people group lacking an indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize their own people. This means that 1 in 4 people groups remain without access to the gospel. Here's a partial listing of them.

Our Lord Jesus was careful time and again to stress the cost of all-out devotion to Him. Our church rolls are loaded with people who claim to be following Jesus but who have no idea of His priorities for the church. What many churches need is a big farewell party in which we tell this age goodbye. We sing "Content to let the world go by" while wearing ourselves out trying to keep up with it! Well, I have said my goodbye to cheap Christianity. I have said my goodbye to raising up vast edifices of wood, hay, and stubble. I have said my goodbye to a little religion. I have said goodbye to the cheap satisfactions of this world. I am fed up with the husks of swine. The water of Life, the meat of the Word, the manna of Heaven – there is a King's table waiting for the believer, and the supply is inexhaustible. True missionary activity should be the outflow of who we are in Christ. It is one thing to pay God a tip on Sunday morning. It is another thing to submit to His plan and program in uncompromising, unquestioning obedience every day of our lives. John Piper puts it well:

We do not believe Jesus when he says there is more blessedness, more joy, more full and lasting pleasure in a life devoted to helping others than there is in a life devoted to our material comfort. And therefore the very longing for contentment which (according to Jesus) ought to drive us to simplicity of life and labors of love contents itself instead with the broken cisterns of American prosperity and comfort.

What a time for the church in North America to be drunk with her own amusements and comfort and success when she should be awake and alert to the Lord's commission! His business is our business as Christians. We have no other. There is only one way to handle the problem scripturally and that is to surrender our unsurrendered selves, repent of our ingrownness and self-centeredness, and then get back to being about the Father's business!

Students, I challenge you to love Jesus more than anything or anyone else. I challenge you to accomplish great things for the kingdom sacrificially. I challenge you to love the lost more than you love your comfort. There are a good many causes you can get caught up in, but there is only one cause that is worth living and dying for. Rather than blindly going along with the culture and even with the church subculture that is focused on itself, I challenge you to go wide with the Gospel among your friends and to the uttermost parts of the earth.

Let’s live for the Cause of all causes!

Tuesday, March 9

6:24 AM Are you ready for the answers to yesterday's contest questions? Here they are:

1) Diamond Head

2) Arizona Memorial

3) Royal Hawaiian Hotel

4) Pali Lookout

5) Aloha Tower

6) Kailua (home sweet home)


The first blogger to get all 6 answers correct is none other than:

Thomas Roten

Thomas, along with wife Kaitlin, blog here. Thomas just happens to be a SEBTS student (whom I've never met) who lived in Kailua for a time. Congratulations Thomas. Please send me an email today with your choice of book. And thanks to all who played along!

Monday, March 8

6:31 PM Spread manure again, showered (third one today), cooked supper (Chinese, with my secret ingredient of course), and am now prepping for tomorrow. Today I wore shorts and a t-shirt for the first time in 5 months.

4:22 PM Today Becky's chariot got a hand wash. Looks brand spanking new, don't it? And ya gotta love that license plate. By the grace of God, we can truly say, "It is well."

4:15 PM Spring!

3:27 PM Yesterday my Sunday School teacher asked me how to pronounce "Ephrathah." I told him I had no idea. The Semitic word is pronounced one way, its Greek equivalent another way, and the English (I suppose) still another. I have found such place names especially challenging when traveling to Europe. In Italy, Florence is Firenzo, Naples is Napoli, Padua is Padova, Venice is Venezia, and Milan is Milano. To the Danes Copenhagen is pronounced something like "koopen-howen," and in Switzerland the name of my doctoral city is spelled four different ways (Basle, Basel, Basileia, Bâl). And have you noticed that in Germany the city of Cologne is really Köln and Munich is München? Names = headaches! In a few days I'll be flying United Airlines to Frankfurt (or is it Frankfort?), but did you know that in 1987 the name of the company was changed to "Allegis" by the company's CEO Richard Ferris? Donald Trump said the name sounded like a disease, and upon Ferris's ouster his successor changed the company name back to United.

I didn't go into all of this when my teacher asked me that question. But I thought about it.

3:13 PM The churches in the past have left the impression that the Lord Jesus entrusted His ministry to certain ordained clergy. Even in New Testament days converts from Judaism had a difficult time understanding the transition to the New Covenant, as both the book of Acts and the epistle to the Hebrews indicate. These converts could hardly imagine a church with no fixed forms, organizational structures, or definite ranking of fulltime servants. They needed to learn that the ministry of the New Covenant is a priesthood of all believers.

Those of us who are studying 1 Thessalonians in Greek class this week must come to grips with this fact. The ministry of evangelism that Paul describes in chapters 1-2 is the ministry of all believers. What is more significant is that the church leaders who are mentioned briefly and in passing in 5:12-13 are not described as office-holders but simply as people who perform certain functions in the church. But the basic nurture of the church must be carried out by all (see 5:14). In his essay Where are the Equippers? Jack Watkins comes to the same conclusion, namely, that the pyramid style of leadership so common today simply did not exist in the New Testament. Let me suggest you read the entire essay if you haven't. Then reflect on Hebrews 8 and Jeremiah 31. Perhaps a deepened picture of the New Covenant will help you to join me hoping for a day when the church will be restored to its biblical pattern of every-member ministry.

10:01 AM Frank Emanuel has an excellent though brief (brevity is powerful!) post about the unhealthy expectations people often put on their pastors. It's called What is a pastor? Frank wishes he had the courage to stand up to abusive people. That may sound trite -- but it is far from easy. Unless we are very careful, we can find ourselves doing the right things for the wrong motives (the acceptance of others, for example). That said, I have nothing but the greatest sympathy for pastors who feel dumped on by their congregations. 

Point in passing: Is being the pastor of your church causing you to become (unintentionally perhaps) the lightening rod for your congregation's displeasure? Is there another way, a better way, a way to avoid being put on a pedestal?

9:13 AM Just back from spreading manure. It's a perfect day for working outdoors. That includes writing!

8:18 AM If you've ever been to Ethiopia you'll know exactly what this is. My mouth waters just looking at it. Forget Starbucks. The best machiattos in the world are to be found in Addis Ababa. And they're cheap too: Only 2 birr (20 cents).

7:52 AM Quote of the day (Corrie ten Boom):

Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.

7:42 AM Watch the Internet spread around the world. Amazing! 

7:36 AM Ray McGovern pens yet another frisky and powerful piece called Mullen Wary of Israeli Attack on Iran. He opens with this humdinger of an intro:

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, came home with sweaty palms from his mid-February visit to Israel. He has been worrying aloud that Israel will mousetrap the U.S. into war with Iran.

Read the entire essay if you want to know why Mullen is so worried.

7:24 AM The Genitive Debate continues with this piece over at the Better Bibles Blog: Genitives and the semantics of love and faith. This has to do with an age-old debate of which many of you will already have had a stomach full. The gravamen is contained in the peroration, which you won't want to miss. The prose is somewhat dense, but this seems to be true of the more recent posts at BBB. I think we can all agree, though, that the debate is far from being over.

6:58 AM Hey there fellow bloggers! Once again, it's ...


How would you like to win one of the following books?

  • It's Still Greek to Me

  • New Testament Textual Criticism

  • Why Four Gospels?

  • The Jesus Paradigm

  • Christian Archy

  • Rethinking the Synoptic Problem

Here's how to play.

As everyone knows, I was born and raised on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. Below are 6 pictures of fairly well-known places on this island. Your job is to correctly name as many of them as you can. Send your answers to me by email. The deadline for contributions is 9:00 pm Eastern Time tonight. I will announce the winner first thing tomorrow morning. The person with the most correct answers wins. In case of a tie, the contestant with the earliest contribution will be named the winner.

Remember: This contest is for bloggers only. And there's a small catch: If you win, you must agree to post a brief review of the book on your blog.

Sound like fun? Well then, have at it! Here are the pictures.

Bon chance!

Picture #1

Picture #2

Picture #3

Picture #4

Picture #5

Picture #6

6:43 AM Nijay Gupta offers a fine review of Magnus Zetterholm, Approaches to Paul: A Student's Guide to Recent Scholarship (.pdf).

6:27 AM Not much news here. I plan to be very busy this week. My courses entail a lot of work in preparation, and I have a good deal of gibbering on the side with students, which I always enjoy. Meanwhile, I'm continuing my own private study of ecclesiology and missiology (Romans and 1 Corinthians especially). It has taken me the greater part of a lifetime to begin to discover the immemorially obvious and to try, at least, to flesh out the discovery in my own life. It has been an excruciatingly educational ordeal for me, and I often feel like a small child wading on the vast shore of a limitless ocean.

Still, I manage to get a good deal of writing done, along with a certain amount of reading. How wholeheartedly I agree with those philosophers who express contempt for authors who write more than they read. Of course, I don't often have time to do both. I manage to read 15-20 books each week plus a handful of important journal articles, not to mention the more interesting blogs. I find that 2-3 hours of writing daily is my extreme limit. I have gotten several German books on weakness that I have not read yet but plan to do so this week. I sometimes feel guilty in reading books (with comprehension) so quickly. I can plough my way through them in a mere fraction of the time the authors must have spent in writing them. But then again I have an excessive affection for succinctness. The really prodigious authors make the time and have the capacity for working long and hard that I can only envy. I don't agree, for example, with everything Tom Wright says, but I don't think I've ever read things that made me so profoundly admire and respect the writer. Clearly a giant intellect is at work which plays justly over a wide range of ideas. You should read him if you haven't already. He's a great popularizer too, which is something I have tried to become in my most recent books.

But all that is for later. I have the sneaking suspicion that the farm manager will soon be along and make demands on my physical prowess, such as it is.

Sunday, March 7

4:56 PM Can you believe it? Only 10 days to go before we leave for Ethiopia, if the Lord is willing. This verse impresses me as I contemplate returning to Africa: "We, though many, are one body in Christ" (Rom. 12:5). What a wonderful privilege it is as Christians to share a relationship with every other Christian in the world, regardless of color, race, age, or denomination. Becky and I are bound to the church in Ethiopia in a fellowship that goes far beyond the mere sharing of a hobby or a political affiliation. The reality of our fellowship also places inescapable demands on us. We are the church together and therefore we must bear each other's burdens in a sympathetic way. Funny, we've been going to Ethiopia for 7 years now and yet I am still as excited as if it were my very first trip. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for making us "fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God" (Eph. 2:9)!

4:12 PM Some powerful quotes from today's message on Acts 8:1-8:

  • God takes evil and turns it on its head.

  • Persecution pushes people out of their comfort zone.

  • Just because they were persecuted didn't mean they stopped preaching the word.

  • Persecution only furthered the kingdom work, it did not hinder it.

  • These people lived lives that were centered in Christ. That's what they were persecuted for.

  • No persecution is ever great enough for you to turn away from the Gospel.

  • As a church, the Great Commission should trump every decision we make.

Thank you, brother Joel, for the reminder that God often does His best work when the church is under pressure from its enemies.

By the way, I love your blog!

8:58 AM I am still collecting works for my chapter on weakness (using works published subsequent to 1984), which has involved a lot of work for my assistant, Mr. Andy Bowden. I am still a bit uncertain how the thing will turn out but will doubtless discover when I get down to the actual writing. I hope to have the complete manuscript by the end of summer. If, in the meantime, you know of anything on astheneia that I should see, I hope you will notify me of its whereabouts. I'd be happy to add it to my ever-growing stack of books and journal articles. Je réjouis de la pensée que vous deviendrez mon collaborateur.

7:32 AM So proud this morning of my doctoral students. They've read papers at this weekend's SECOR conference and they are on the program at this month's regional ETS meeting. It is very exciting to see them developing their nascent professorial skills this early on in their program. They have even begun publishing some of their seminar papers, which will also be used in their dissertations. I have no problem with this; in fact I encourage it. I had just arrived in Basel in 1980 as a fledging doctoral student when I received the page proofs of my first journal article. I can still feel the excitement today. One has to start somewhere, and I see absolutely no reason why the starting point should be post-Ph.D.

7:24 AM The other day I recommended Beasley-Murray's Baptism in the New Testament to a fellow blogger, even though the book is sorely out of date. His is one of those vintages that improves with age. I could feel much more optimistic about the current generation of young New Testament scholars if they paid more attention to the great classics in the field. When you read Baptism in the New Testament you will be able to judge for yourself if you think it's a good book and, if good, who should be reading it today.

7:18 AM I read this verse this morning:

By now you ought to be teachers, yet you still need someone to teach you again the elementary truths of God's Word. You need milk, not meat (Heb. 5:12).

Talk about a case of arrested development. Just when you should have become teachers, you have to go back to the basics of the Gospel.

The blisters on my hands this morning are a painful reminder to me of this truth. By now you would think that I'd have thick callouses on my hands because of all the manure spreading I do here on the farm. But let Nathan go to Dallas for 10 days and my hands revert to their soft, city-slicker state. My blisters point to a great principle of life:

When you do nothing, something always happens.

Just don't mow your yard. Just don't put oil in your car. Just don't review your Greek paradigms and principal parts. (You knew I had to get that last one in, didn't you?)

What to do? Acknowledge your defeat, then get right back to throwing manure. Don't wallow in self-pity. How many of us, instead of marching forward in our Christian walk, are merely marking time? How many of us will attend church this morning, not to give, not to serve, not to invest in others, but to sit, soak, and sour? We may have been Christians for years but we still can't instruct another or point someone to Jesus. We can understand only the very basic doctrines. Because we are so immature, we succumb easily to theological fads that arise with alarming regularly.

The author of Hebrews is saying, Grow up. Get back on track. Put your knowledge to use in the kingdom. Don't stay in an immature state.

Get back to tossing manure!

Saturday, March 6

7:25 PM Thanks to all who linked to my video clip from our Greek DVD series. Just want to clarify a couple of things:

1) We chose the PAL format because we produced the set primarily for schools in the Majority World, where PAL is the norm. What this means is that most of you who live in North America will not be able to view the DVDs on your TV. But everyone will be able to play them on their computer.

2) In keeping with our emphasis on training foreign nationals, we offer a 50 percent discount to educational institutions outside of North America. This means that one can purchase the entire 24-DVD set for only $100.00 USD. I'm so excited that we've already had several international schools order the series.

3) As you can see from the clip I posted, the approach I take to Greek grammar involves morphology, which in one sense makes the learning process a little bit more difficult at the beginning of your studies. It goes without saying that this is certainly not the only correct method of teaching Greek. In addition, not all linguists agree on how Greek morphology works, and other teachers might wish to explain the grammar using other terms. The bottom line is that there is no single "best" Greek grammar or "best" Greek teacher. All have their proper uses and, in fact, my prayer is that the Lord Jesus uses all of them to educate His church.

6:52 PM Just a line or two. I spent the evening mortifying the flesh sitting on my front yard bench watching the pond below me and a field of about 20 Angus in it, enjoying the deafening silence, and being astounded again by the breathtaking beauty of the farm and God's magnificent creation.

The mama cows were busy licking off their calves, the bull was doing what bulls instinctively do, and the rest were lying around lazily chewing their cud. The day was remarkable for its wonderful colors and shadows everywhere.

Speaking of things creative, I have been listening to a CD of the really funereal piece by Marcel Dupré called Cortège et Litanie performed (of all things!) on the great organ of Houston's Second Baptist Church. How good a composer he was yet how poorly is his masterpiece played, at least on You Tube. The best I could find was this one, though it sounds more martial than funereal.


I don't suppose I will ever be able to hear the piece performed live and in person, as it must be extremely difficult to play.

Finally, it is melancholy work sloughing through this piece at Huff Post, but the author does have a point: Christians: No Fair Heeding Paul on Gays, But Not Jesus on Wealth. Of course, I am never guilty of platitudinizing of this sort!

4:59 PM OH NO! Look at what just mysteriously appeared in my driveway!

Nathan, you keep this up and you'll end up with an old man who looks like this!

3:58 PM Our phone service is back.

3:22 PM Guess who's about to have puppies? Our little Miss Chloe. She's begun to waddle, and the fur on her underside had started to fall out. The proud daddy is none other than our own Mr. Sheppie. The pups will be beautiful, I'm sure.

3:15 PM Tommy Calnan is about to make his second escape. His first one took place from a train window as he was being transported across Germany. Now he is about to crawl through a filthy tunnel on his way to freedom from a POW camp deep inside the Third Reich.

Tommy's first escape he made alone. Not so his second one. He writes (pp. 196-87 of Free As a Running Fox):

After my train jump on the journey from Spangenberg, I had reached an entirely final decision. Never again would I escape alone. The lonely human, I had found, cannot dominate his elemental fears. Although he can, consciously and with an effort of the will, control those fears, he cannot prevent the subconscious effect they have on his actions. During those cold days spent in ditches or thin woods, my morale had been so low as to be almost non-existent. I knew, with absolute certainty, that the comforting presence of one companion would have been the most effective antidote to this fear complex.

"The comforting presence of one companion." How true. All of us were made for community and companionship. The Lord Jesus sent the 70 out two by two. He did not ask them to go it alone. Imagine the encouragement they could draw from each other along the way or when they met with resistance and opposition.

It is a wise thing to do the Lord's work in the companionship of others. The great apostle Paul himself was not above working with others. His journeys were always team efforts. What makes us think we can do any less?

Below: The Lord Jesus still has His Peters, Jameses, and Pauls. I thank God for such gifted people and the impact on others He has allowed them to make. Here is our 2009 Alaba team, including (from the left) Kevin, his daughter Katy, and Dale.

It's hard for me to imagine a more diverse team, yet God knitted us together and we worked together beautifully. This summer our Alaba team will be much smaller (only 2 others in addition to myself), each of us being merely a fellow foot soldier in the great work God has called us to do -- together. What joy!

11:50 AM Just had a delightful brunch with the Blacks. Becky cooked up a delicious omelet that was filled with little surprises, including avocados. Two quick notes before Nate and I get to work:

1) Our local telephone service is on the fritz. We are told it won't be repaired until next Wednesday. So if you need to contact us please do so via email (which we access through our satellite provider).

2) On my home page I've just published my latest essay. It's called The Supreme Importance of the Great Commission. I'm not sure Satan will like it very much. He'll patronize us into complacency by suggesting all kinds of excuses why we shouldn't make world evangelization our top priority. With our loins girded with truth (sorry for the archaic biblicism, but I love that expression!) we must stand and fight by taking the truth of God's Word and His scandalous love and hurling them back at the Tempter. Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that I am living for the Gospel as I ought to. I am as convicted by this essay as I anticipate anyone else will be. But I will tell you this: As tough as evangelism is, it's worth it all when you see someone fall in love with Jesus! God's message is to flesh out the Good News. May our churches be radically committed to doing that in the days and years ahead until the Lord returns.

Friday, March 5

9:32 PM Look at what Becky baked for me tonight. It was a surprise. My favorite too -- Poppy Seed Cake.

We each enjoyed a piece while watching the Waltons. Not a bad way to top off a great day, eh?

8:07 PM Here's 2 more pix of the sweetest and neatest and bestest and most beauteous little 9 month old in the whole wide world:

On a side note, in the truck today Nate played for me a CD Nolan listens to. It has songs in three languages: English, French, and Spanish. That rascal. Nolan already knows more languages than his mommy and daddy!

5:19 PM If TV can have re-runs, so can we! Yesterday I posted a couple of You Tube videos taken during out trips to Ethiopia. Each has an interesting story behind it, which we couldn't tell you about last night because we were too busy. I asked Becky if she would be willing to describe these clips for you today, and she graciously agreed. So here's Becky:

Clip #1: Solomon praying. 

This scene took place in November, 2008. I was at the back of the clinic, heard the praying, and snuck in the back door to video tape the session of praying. Pleading over a young woman of about 20 years of age was Chaplain Solomon. One hand was raised to the Throne of Heaven, and one hand lay upon the unconscious woman. On the floor, bowed over with heads touching the concrete, were the father and mother of the woman. I knew her story. The day before this praying session she had been brought to the clinic. Her fever was through the roof, her oxygenation was only 67 percent, and she was in constant seizure. Her parents told us what had happened. This woman and her parents had professed allegiance to Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The woman's brother, however, did not. A village witchdoctor had cast a spell upon the brother, stating, "You will die if your sister does not leave Jesus." The brother plead with his sister; he was very frightened of death. She renounced Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of the World. Immediately, she herself was at the edge of death, stricken with this illness.  In the clinic, our nurses started an IV, gave fluids, gave antibiotics, gave anti-seizure medicines, gave fever medicine....but the real thing needed was a return to Jesus. Only He could heal her. And this could happen only through prayer. Almost around the clock the nurses, the chaplain, the church elders, and our team members prayed. On the 2nd day, she came to her senses and returned to Jesus. On the 3rd day, she was discharged from the clinic. On the 4th day, the nurses and Chaplain Solomon visited her in her home....she was busy waiting on them, preparing coffee and kolo. 

Such is a day in the life of a rural clinic in southern Ethiopia.

Clip #2: Burji Mountains.

This scene is from our trip in June, 2007. Dave and I were taking our first group to Ethiopia; it consisted of 9 people from Bethel Hill Baptist Church near Roxboro, NC. Our team was divided into two parts: the Soyama Town part and the Village Team part. I was with the Village Team. We traveled from village to village, spending 2-3 days in each village, sleeping on the floor of the churches, eating food prepared by the church women, and doing various ministry sessions on the church compound. One of us taught the Bible to women, one taught men, a couple worked with the children; we distributed reading glasses and held informal medical clinics. We listened to Bible recitations and distributed Bibles. In every village we visited, the people would walk out to meet us. They greeted us with singing, waving branches, and flowers; everyone was dressed in their colorful Sunday best. Our truck would carry us as far as it could go, then we got out and walked. The Ethiopians eagerly carried our luggage, water bottles, and blankets. And so we began the long walk into their village, singing along with them, rejoicing in the goodness of the Lord that He had brought us together! 

In this video clip, we are hiking to the village of Shargo. It is the last village of the trip. We were tired as we hiked along the ridge of mountains, jumping streams of water, trying not to walk too fast so that we wouldn't get winded in the high altitude. The church is situated on a little peninsular jutting out of the mountain; the drop-off is steep. A very thin trail can be seen going down the mountain, and the Ethiopians told me that many times people and animals fall to their deaths as they slip on the trail. Shortly after we arrived, it began to rain. For 15 hours it rained constantly. We had our meetings in the drizzle, under umbrellas. Then we began the slippery hike back to the truck. Two Ethiopia men walked beside each of us women to keep us upright. Returning, we didn't have to worry about walking too fast! We looked like drowned rats by the time we made it to the vehicle. Then we began the long descendent, our 4WD vehicle slipping and sliding every which way, sometime going up so sharply we couldn't see the top, sometimes having to stop and regroup before continuing on.  It was one of those times when I was keenly aware of the danger facing us, yet also keenly aware that people were praying at home. Many of us broke down crying upon our return, so great was the stress of the trip. The goodness of the Lord Jesus in keeping us was keenly felt by every person. Would I do it again? Absolutely!

Incidentally, when we returned to Virginia, I told my parents about this little trip, and my mother told me that when they were in Ethiopia, their Land Rover slid off the road in these same Burji Mountains, such that two of the 4 wheels were hanging in the air. My father told my mother to very slowly and carefully get out of the car; my mother was pregnant with her 6th child, my brother was about 18 months, and my sister was about 3 and a half years. My mother stood with her children on the road, knowing that at any second my father and the vehicle could go over the mountain's edge. My sister asked her, "Mommy, what are we doing?" My mother replied, "We're praying, honey. We're praying."

So when we post our prayer itinerary for our trips, we are saying to you: PRAY! We need your prayers...and you may never know the difference your particular, personal prayer made.

4:15 PM Did you hear us whooping and hollering as Nate and Jessie came up the driveway this morning? I just had to capture the moment on camera. See how totally pathetic I am! What a wonderful homecoming it was. Mama B and I couldn't wait to wrap our arms around that little Nolan. (Course his mom and dad got a hug too.)

I tell you, that boy has grown a foot since we last saw him. And he scoots and boots like a snake-bitten Texan once you put him on the floor. More on Nolan later.

After breakfast Nate and I got down to work, beginning in Oxford where these trailers were patiently awaiting our arrival. You counted right -- 4 of them!

Each is a very heavy load, but nothing to fear -- not if you have your trusty air pump on hand.

Everywhere Nate goes in Oxford and its environs he is known (affectionately?) as Mr. Poop. To help the young ladies dump their manure into the trailers he built this little platform. It reads: "This step compliments of Mr. Poop, Mrs. Poop, and Little Pooper." I guess this makes me Grandpa Poop?

Below: How true, how true!

Oh, I thought you'd like to see a pic of our newest bull calf, born three days ago. Cute, cute, cute!

Then it was time for us to spread the manure and feed all the cows.

Finally, I want to introduce you to 3 of our "teenage" cows, acting just like adolescents -- aloof, cliquish, and uncommunicative. Guess they never read my book!

Soweit die heutige Nachricht. Tonight I'm taking my bride out for Chinese dinner in Clarkesville -- "our fair city." Can't wait!

8:02 AM Today Nate, Jess, and Nolie return from a trip to Dallas to visit with Mama B and Granddaddy. You know what that means, don't you? Yep -- we've fallen way behind in the skubalation department, and I won't be surprised if Nate and I have to unload not one but two trailers of manure today. What fun!

By the way, the happy family has been sending us pix along the way. Here's one I thought you'd enjoy:

7:57 AM The intro to this post over at APB News reads:

Blogs are a growing but still relatively underutilized influence on today's religious discourse, according to a study of the religious blogosphere by the Social Science Research Council

But my favorite quote from this fine piece is:

Some, like religion reporters and academicians, were not originally interested in blogging but were forced to give in and eventually learned to enjoy it.

And all you yet-to-be bloggers said?

7:43 AM I usually don't link to stories about Baylor University but I think it's worth your time to note this one: Baylor alum to give school $200 million. The anonymous donor wants the money to be spent on the study of aging. All well and good, but there's a catch: the money won't become available until the donor's death. No information on how old he or she is....

6:56 AM I loved Cathleen Shine's New York Times piece I Was a Teenage Illiterate. She cites her "illiteracy epiphany," which I suppose happened to me at about the same age. I was a terrible student in school and cared nothing for books and book-learning. At home I read a few Hardy Boys novels, but my love for history and theology would develop only much later. Sad to say, I feel I wasted many years as a teenage illiterate. But I think I've made up for it since then.

6:47 AM Hey bloggers and bloggerettes. The following is a 4-minute clip from our Greek DVD series, which is available here. If nothing else, it'll give you a flavor of what to expect if you use the set. The series was taped while I was teaching beginning Greek at a college in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It was fun teaching these Ethiopians the basics of the language and watching the light come on. Personally, I so enjoy discovering the beauty of languages, including Greek. I think you'll pick that up when you watch the video.


Thursday, March 4

8:59 PM Well, Richard Sugg has done it again. Yes, this is the same Richard who installed our new home computer for us. It is also the same Richard Sugg who was inspired to produce the vocabulary cards for our beginning grammar (which are available here). Richard spent 4 hours with us this evening helping us learn how to maximize the use of our pooter (including how to post video clips). His God-given cybernetic abilities are simply amazing. Thank you, Richard, for putting them to work in service to our wonderful Savior. May He richly bless you for it. Now, I know many of you are thinking, "Oh no, now I have to put up with countless video clips in addition to all the photos Dave posts!" Not to be afraid, though. I promise not to post any more than 20 clips per day, not even of Mr. Nolan.

By the way, each of the clips posted below has a story behind it. More on that tomorrow. Right now my brain is totally frazzled.

8:23 PM Sample #2:


6:30 PM We're working on the website tonight, trying to upload a You Tube. Here's a sample. Hope it works.


2:55 PM Quote of the day (Michael Bird):

Ellis was a wonderful Baptist scholar of the NT and a committed churchman.

What a marvelous testimony! I did not know Earle Ellis personally but I wish I had.

2:46 PM Today Joel and I were discussing what makes for a good commentary. I mentioned to him that one of the main reasons I'm requiring my Greek students to purchase Gordon Fee's commentary on 1-2 Thessalonians is that he makes it very clear in his preface that he wrote the initial draft of his commentary before consulting any other works. Hence the book is really a compendium of Fee's own thinking, which to me is what a good commentary should be. This is one reason I was so glad to see Harold Hoehner's Ephesians commentary published after so many years of labor he invested in that work. Harold had taught the book of Ephesians for who knows how many years -- 30? His commentary reflects a depth that only a seasoned New Testament scholar possesses. So if you want to know what Harold believed and thought, it's all there for you to see. I much prefer these types of commentaries to those that are simply pastiches of other people's opinions.

Below: Becky snapped this picture of me and Harold Hoehner a couple of years ago at Grace Bible Church in Dallas. He was a dear friend of mine and a model for me in many ways. I still miss him (and that includes chatting with him in Swiss German).

2:20 PM Even though I'm deep in my study of 1 Thess. 2:1-12 for next week's class, my mind keeps wandering disobediently back to 1:8, where we read, "For from you the word of the Lord has echoed forth ... so that we don't have to say anything." I am greatly encouraged by this statement, and you should be too. This is the role of the so-called laity in down-to-earth terms. The laity (not the clergy) forms the spearhead of the church's mission in the world. Because they are out in the work-a-day world, lay people are beachheads for the kingdom in business, education, government, and other professions, doing their jobs daily to the glory of God and as witnesses of His grace and love. This is why an adequate ministry can never depend on one pastor or even a corps of pastors. The whole church must be mobilized and trained for ministry and mission. Lay people, and only lay people, in their daily lives and occupations, encounter the society in which they live as a pattern of life.

What we need now are churches that show us how to flesh out this model of ministry. If you know of such a congregation, would you please consider writing me and letting me know? I'd like to feature that congregation on this blog. Thank you!

2:03 PM Well, Becky and I thoroughly enjoyed a visit from one of our pastors at Bethel Hill along with his dear wife and 2 precious children. Brother Joel needed to interview someone on the topic of suffering for one of his seminary classes, and he (wisely!) chose Becky Lynn for the interview.

I didn't listen in on the interview but I bet it was awesome. Joel and Kimberly, know that we love you guys very much. We are very excited about what the Lord God is doing in your lives and what He will do in the days and years ahead. Continue to run in such a way as to win the prize. And Joel, thank you for constantly and consistently reminding the Body to think of ourselves as disciples, ever learning and growing and encouraging one another, and as disciplers, leading non-Christians into the fellowship of believers.

9:45 AM I just snapped this picture while going out to feed the cattle.

Beautiful, isn't it? How do you like the avant-garde black frame I designed? Neat, huh?

Actually, my shutter failed to open all the way. I had no idea, of course, that this was happening while taking this picture. Which brings up a question: How much of what I am now doing for Christ will be gold, silver, and precious stones? And how much will be wood, hay, and stubble? I won't know until the judgment seat of Christ, will I? Something I may think (and, indeed, may have been quite positive about) was of eternal value may in fact end up being completely burned up in that Day. And how about my motives? I may do what is right, what is required of me as a steward, but if I have done it with improper motives (we'll talk a lot about this in our Greek class next week in our study of 1 Thessalonians), it too will go up in smoke.

Well, so much for my sermonette! I just want to add that I am grateful that spring is on its way. But I'm not one who has been pleading with Mother Earth for the return of warmer weather. I have no right to complain to the Creator about the weather. This winter has been cold, but we have kept warm; we've had plenty of snow, but no ice; and the Lord has "deep watered" our pastures in anticipation of a good hay crop (our largest source of income on the farm).

That said, I am not going to complain that the temps will be in the 60s this weekend!

8:32 AM Our July team is now set. Prior to our departure this summer Becky will publish a detailed prayer itinerary for you to follow. In the meantime we invite you to "join our team" with your prayers. Here's a list of current needs that B has put together. Feel free to copy and distribute it as the Lord leads.

Together for the Gospel,


7:48 AM Newsweek reviews Mitt Romney's No Apology: The Case for American Greatness.

In Mr. Romney's own words:

I’m one of those who believe America is destined to remain as it has been since the birth of the republic—the brightest hope in the world. And for that belief, I do not apologize.”

If we're thinking biblically, how can we possibly say that the United States is "the brightest hope in the world"? I don't mean to pick on Mitt Romney. Many American Christians have sadly allowed their patriotism to co-opt their faith. Many of us want a Jesus who will defend our country -- the "city on a hill" -- and hate our national enemies as much as we do. America has become a god and patriotism its goddess.

Jesus isn't anything like this. Neither is His power. Knowing that all power had been given to Him, He tells His disciples that the way to vanquish their foes is by loving their enemies with cross-like love. In Christ my real citizenship is in heaven. I am nothing but a foreigner and an exile wherever I live. All earthly governments are "less than nothing" in God's sight (see Isa. 40:15-17!). Moreover, the Bible is clear that all human governments are under "the deceiver of the nations" (Rev. 9:11; 20:3, 8).

Just to be clear, I'm not saying that we shouldn't vote or that we shouldn't support the political party/leader of our choice. I'm not saying that people who run for public office are evil.  Nor am I denying that there are leaders who are sincere in their desire to serve their country. (On the "sincerity scale," I'm sure both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama think they are perfect 10s!) But given the clear witness of the New Testament, I have to question the confidence that is placed in human government when we should be preoccupied with investing our time and energy in living under and expanding the reign of God.

If it is counter-cultural to say "the brightest hope in the world" is Jesus Christ (and NOT Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Barack Obama, Ron Paul, the Democratic Party, etc.), then so be it!

7:02 AM McMaster Divinity College announces an opening in Christian Ministry.

Wednesday, March 3

7:55 PM D. B. Hamill's Jesus and me broke up really got me thinking. On the one hand, I've always been a Jesus freak of sorts. Started out that way in Hawaii and stayed that way all through my studies at Biola, Talbot, and even Basel. At one time I even wore mariachi sandals and had really long hair -- just like Jesus of course (*sarcasm*). On the other hand, I have always had a feeling deep in my gut that there was something eccentric about the "Jesus Movement" of the 1960s and 70s. For a good many of us, Jesus wasn't so much Lord and Master as a good buddy and pal. Also, our Christianity was very individualistic. "Me" and "I" were more often spoken than "we" and "us." Finally, I think our version of faith was more needs-based than obedience-based, at least it was for me.

Today I am still in love with Jesus (in the good-old-fashioned Jesus freak sense), but working together for the Gospel requires more than a personal walk with Jesus. The older I've grown the clearer I've seen that the Christian life is to be lived in community so that we can keep each other accountable and spur each other on to love and good deeds. I think that's one reason why Jesus sent out His workers 2 by 2. That's why Becky and I do our work in Ethiopia as a team (usually of 2 but often, like thus summer, as a team of 25). To be honest, I have found more joy in serving Jesus together than I have in my solo acts.

I ask you to pray for me. Pray for me to yield to the Spirit in every area of my life. I want to be the foot-washer that Jesus wants me to be. I want to show my students what it means to love other people and how it looks to lead a Spirit-filled life. My quest is to do this not as a lone ranger but in association with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

How thankful I am that God can take even a crusty old Jesus freak and remake him into the image of Christ!

7:22 PM Captain Sullenberger is retiring, according to this ABC report. And what will the hero of the Hudson do?

Sullenberger said he plans to spend more time with his family in retirement and will write another book. He will also continue to talk to lawmakers about raising minimum qualifications for pilots and work to lower the maximum number of hours pilots are able to work in a single day.

Worthy goals, all. Enjoy your new job, Captain! 

6:55 PM Thank God for a New Testament scholar who reads the church fathers!

5:58 PM Coming to understand Jesus as fully God is a life-changing event for anyone. A new book claims to deliver practical, powerful theological content to that end. It is wonderfully titled Putting Jesus in His Place and is reviewed by Matt Evans here. All Christians need to be armored up as we present the radical claims of Jesus Christ to our lost friends.

5:34 PM Here's a big question I often wrestle with in teaching Greek: How much information do you give to beginning students of the language? Take the third declension. After considering different options I decided I'd give my students the basic case-number suffixes and just enough exposure to basic paradigms to enable them to recognize most third declension nouns when they read their Greek New Testaments. When you think about the third declension it's really not all that difficult. What is absolutely necessary, however, is that students learn the genitive and the article of every third declension noun in their vocabulary or else they'll be completely lost when they try to read Greek.

Does anyone else struggle with this? (Movie idea: Indiana Jones and the Search for the Perfect Greek Grammar.) I'm trying to get my rational head around this!

Anyways, I'm very excited that we've covered the good old third decision because now we get to move on to the mother of all Greek topics -- those potent participles!

4:02 PM Quote of the day (Jared Bowie):

Jesus had a great, big convoy and he knew where He was leading it. He knew what not to stop for.

Read Jesus Didn't Stop. I can't help but be reminded of all the times I stopped when I knew I should have plowed ahead. I love you Jesus for loving me even when I'm wishy-washy!

3:46 PM 56 years ago a young married couple left Dallas, TX, with their blond-haired baby in tow. Their destination? The nation of Ethiopia. Man were they motivated! They learned to speak Amharic then went down country to establish some of the first schools in all of Southern Ethiopia. They had joined a great movement of post-WW II American revolutionaries who were radical about taking the Good News to the ends of the earth. I am so honored to know Brad and Betty Lapsley. After all, I married the daughter they took with them to Ethiopia!

I invite you to take a look at a wonderful interview that Mrs. Jody Neufeld recently had with that little girl (now grown). You'll find it over at Bible Study Paths. But be warned. Like every true revolution, the Jesus revolution comes with a price tag. It cost Becky's mom her health (which is why the Lapsleys returned from the field in 1964). All I can say is praise the Lord for this family. They have made such a impact on my life that I feel every time I step on to Ethiopian soil. Along with many others, they taught me that there is nothing more important in this life than leading people to Jesus -- nothing.

Enjoy the interview....

3:23 PM B and I just got back from running around town. Saw this church sign along the way:

Judge Not Less Ye Be Judged.

I am NOT kidding. And no, I am NOT judging!

6:33 AM Should pastors be paid salaries? What does the New Testament teach on the subject, including those controversial texts such as 1 Tim. 5:17? For Darryl Erkel's opinion, go here.

Tuesday, March 2

8:25 PM Man, I'd like to try this some day.

7:58 PM If you've never seen the Basel Fasnacht live and in person, you've never lived. In case you are scratching your head -- "Fasnacht did he say?" -- here's possibly the finest report I've ever read about this annual event in the city of my doctorate. My favorite quote is one I think all of us writers (bloggers included) would do well to take to heart:

There is one golden rule: do not take yourself seriously.

Amen to that!

6:52 PM One of the joys of my work is to follow up by phone or email with prospective students. I'm often asked, "What is unique about Southeastern?" My answer is usually comprised of three words: "The Great Commission." Often there's a pause and then the person will say, "I thought you were a seminary and not a mission." Well, we're actually both. We're a seminary on mission!

As a Greek prof I'm always reminding my students of this crucial fact. Ministry is where it's at. Whatever we do in the classroom is mere preparation to help us calibrate our ministries according to biblical principles. If our Gospel centers on our studies rather than on Christ's glorious act of self-sacrifice, it is no Gospel at all. And if the Gospel we present is not backed up by our own lives (sacrificial living, sacrificial giving) -- in other words, if Eph. 2:8-9 is not backed up by Eph. 2:10 -- then it is no Gospel at all. At the end of the day I don't want students who excel in their studies but whose only focus is on academics. What I seek is a spiritual transformation that takes place when the Holy Spirit uses the truth of God's Word to initiate a lifestyle of discipleship. I want to raise up an army of church leaders whose lives will rock their communities with the Good News and who will unleash the Body of Christ to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the tough places of the world.

I don't know why I'm telling you this tonight except that I'm on semester break and am missing the classroom terribly. I want to be intentional in all that I do as a teacher. I want my students to be passionate about the Gospel. I want all of us to be willing to leave our comfort zones and go out to the dangerous places just because Jesus tells us to. Students, if we really want to see the world reached with the Gospel then we must believe the real, unadulterated Gospel and then we must live the real, unadulterated Christian life. Together we can do it.

Thank you Jesus!

6:41 PM Thanks to Matt and Liz, Becky and I enjoyed a delicious gumbo dish for supper.

Tasted every bit as good as anything we've ever eaten in Nawlins. We could hardly carry on a normal conversation at the table. We kept oohing and awing. Thank you guys for thinking of us!

3:50 PM Here's something I'm praying about: doing chalk drawing evangelism during our July trip. I've never done this before but I think it would be well received. Usually I just do portrait drawing, which inevitably "draws" a crowd. I love drawing for Jesus! Shows you that God can use any ability we have if we make it available to Him. After all, He's the one who gave it to us in the first place!

Isn't Miheret sweeeeet?

3:40 PM Ethiopia team members: One word you'll hear often in Ethiopia is "Ishee." Of all the words a foreigner needs to learn how to use, this is possibly the most important one. It is the most grammatically versatile of all the Ethiopia expressions I know. It carries a shade of meaning very similar to our "Okay." ("Shall we go?" "Ishee."). There is hardly a conversation in which the word is not used. At its core is perhaps the idea of "going along to get along." Remember, Ethiopian culture is very relationship oriented. A key characteristic is the willingness and desire to fit in, to cooperate for the greater good, to go along to get along. So, listen for "Ishee" and learn how to use it yourself. More at our next orientation. 

3:13 PM Two prayer requests:

1) First, please pray for Becky. She's constantly on the phone or writing emails while organizing our trips to Ethiopia this month and in July. Pray for wisdom. The idea is not to micromanage the Lord's work but to manage it effectively from 30,000 feet. What an awesome responsibility!

2) Secondly, I am excited to announce that next Thursday at 12:30 I'll be speaking at North Carolina State University. My lecture is sponsored by the Christian students there who are waging war for the souls of their lost friends. I am working hard on a talk that hopefully will present the basic claims of Christianity in a clear and winsome way. Will you pray for me and invite others to do the same? Pray that God does a mighty work in the hearts of the students on this campus.

Oh yeah, I'll be praying too.  

11:47 AM Quote of the day #2:

(It) was just the kind of thing that happens when you show up alone in a distant country without a plan.

Actor Andrew McCarthy, on being escorted out of a church in Ethiopia at gun point.

11:15 AM Here's the passage we're discussing in Greek 4 next week. I am currently memorizing it in Greek.

What a precious and convicting word (mostly convicting!). The text speaks to my laziness, my selfishness. The Bible says plainly, "Freely you have received, freely give." Every gift I have is the result of God's "varied grace" (1 Pet. 4:10). Therefore I am to give freely to others as an unmerited, unpaid-for favor. "What did you have that you did not receive without paying for it?" asks Paul in 1 Cor. 4:7. Does that say anything to you? Do you see the point of Paul's exhortation here in 1 Thess. 2:9-12? Work is the irresistible responsibility of the Christian. We can't shake it off. We can't escape from our responsibility to give freely to others just as God has freely given to us all things. Paul is saying in essence, "Look at how we lived when we were with you. We did everything for your sake. We were never a burden to you. We served you without pay of any kind." Many of us fail to grasp the reality of this. When we go on a missions trip we automatically ask others to pay for our airfare and food. We never even stop to consider that perhaps by scrimping and going without that trip to Starbucks we could pay for most (or at least a good portion) of our travel and meal expenses ourselves. Paul received gifts from others only when he was financially unable to pay his own expenses (usually due to imprisonment). I'm not saying that fundraising is wrong. But fundraising serves us falsely when it leads us to shrink from our duty.

Paul's instructions to the Thessalonians are clear. Read them for yourself:

You know what you must do to imitate us. We lived a disciplined life among you. We didn't eat anyone's food without paying for it. Instead, we worked hard and struggled night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you. It's not as though we didn't have the right to receive support. But we wanted to set an example for you to follow (2 Thess. 3:7-9).

Then he commanded the idlers, "We order and encourage such people by the Lord Jesus Christ to pay attention to their own work so that they can support themselves" (2 Thess. 3:12).

Some will say, "I could never support myself in ministry." And for some that would be literally true. But I suspect that for many of us that would be paltry rhetoric! On the contrary, we have to firmly and rigorously assert that there is no escape from Paul's injunction:

Don't work, don't eat!!

7:55 AM Quote of the day (Henry Neufeld):

Spending $20,000,000 on the denomination’s image doesn’t seem right to me.

Read What Would a Successful UMC Look Like?

7:36 AM I'm currently reading The Man Who Presumed, the biography of Henry Stanley, who uttered the famous words, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume."

On p. 63 we are given an insight into Stanley's state of mind during his expedition:

My mission to find Livingstone was very simple, and was a clear and definite aim. All I had to do was to free my mind from all else, and relieve it of every earthly desire but the finding of the man whom I was sent to seek. To think of self, friends, banking-account, life-insurance, or any worldly interest but the one sole purpose of reaching the spot where Livingstone might happen to rest, could only weaken my resolution. Intense application to my task assisted me to forget all I had left behind, and all that might lie ahead in the future.

Kingdom-minded people will have exactly the same kind of single-eyed focus! Jesus gave us the same basic message that a New York newspaper gave Stanley: FIND THE LOST! Jesus will have no one among His followers who puts family ties, comfort, security, or possessions above His kingdom. He says to each one of us: "I'm offering you what I have -- hardship, danger, hunger, sweat, blood, tears, and death. Give up everything to follow Me, or don't come at all."

Following Jesus doesn't come cheap. The Bible requires us to voluntarily go out of the way to accept assignments that involve hardship and danger. Every Christian has something to do in this great task of world evangelization!

Monday, March 1

9:12 PM Today, while Becky, Matt, and Liz gallivanted in Chapel Hill, the boys and I had more fun than a sack of confused weasels. Here's proof.

Micah loves our tractors:

Caleb gets hay for the cattle from the barn:

Isaac tosses hay with perfect form:

Micah gets into the act:

"Look, Papa B, a cow bone!"

Hay is for climbing:


Trailers are for jumping:


Isaac admires Nathan's Cutty Sark model:

DQ!! This is the same Dairy Queen in Oxford where Keith Elliott and I once bought a postcard for his wife in Leeds that said, "Greetings from Oxford."



Nice mustache, Caleb:

Micah slides:

Caleb on bars:

Isaac's turn:

Hi Papa B!

Wrapping baked potatoes for supper:

Time out for suckers:

Micah loving on Dayda:

Caleb and Sheba:

Playing in the backyard while supper cooks:

My salad helper:

The gallivanters returned just in time for a delicious supper:

My hardworking and loving boys, thank you for all of your help today. Papa B loves you and is very proud of you!!

5:16 PM Something has rubbed Arthur Sido the wrong way, big time. What is it, and do you agree with his assessment? 

4:51 PM The boys and I just started cooking supper: barbecued chicken with baked potatoes and Caesar's salad. Did I mention corn on the cob?

11:59 AM Guess who's visitin' me this fine March day? Yep, Caleb, Isaac, and Micah. We've already fed the cows, rode on the tractor and Hercules, and had Sloppy Joes for lunch, and now we're fixin' to go to Dairy Queen in Oxford then to the playground before returning to the farm for a nap. After naps we've got our afternoon chores then supper. We took a long walk and the boys found lots of souvenirs, including huge bones and beautiful bird feathers. Liz and Matt, your home will never be the same!

Oh, I'm takin' lots of pix!

9:46 AM Neologism of the day: Feeology. (See the comment section in this post.) You gotta love it! 

9:40 AM Bill Mounce made this statement today:

This is why all full expressions of the doctrine of inerrancy make allowance for grammatical "mistakes."

What do you think? Are there grammatical mistakes in the Greek of the New Testament? You can bet we'll be discussing this notion in Greek class next week.

9:30 AM Brother Jon Glass reports on his church's partnership with Ethiopia. Jon and his wife Matthea will join us this summer as we return to Burji.

Below: Jon with James during our 2008 trip. James volunteered to translate for Jason and me as we trekked among the warring Gujis. James was murdered a few weeks after the team returned to the States.

9:02 AM If you are planting a church in North America, have you ever considered tentmaking rather than support? Here's a well-written case for it (.pdf): Tentmaking and North American Church Planting. The author (who teaches missions at Southern Seminary) includes 5 interesting case studies for your consideration. Well worth your time.

P.S. We'll be discussing this whole issue next week as we exegete 1 Thess. 2:9-12 in class.

8:46 AM A doctoral student at Dallas Seminary spills the beans. (I'm with you, Jason, on the orange juice thing.)

8:42 AM Working on an essay entitled "The Supreme Importance of the Great Commission."

8:40 AM This morning I was reading Raimondo's latest (The Road to Dictatorship) and was reminded of Wordsworth's line about France during the Revolution -- "The land all swarmed with passion, like a plain/Devoured by locusts" -- the awful sense of futility, and reason waiting to be devoured, not by locusts, but by otherwise intelligent people. Everywhere there seems to be a complete indifference to truth and the common decencies of civilized society. At any rate, you can read the essay for yourself and see whether or not you agree. I think it is a magnificent article.

8:37 AM This is late, but I just happened to run across this tribute to Donald Wiseman. His death marks the passing not only of a brilliant mind but also of an epoch of history and, one might almost say, a character of fiction.

7:18 AM Quote of the day:

It is shocking to note how few know the Bill of Rights.

7:15 AM I am picturing a week of writing and reading, unless profligacy gets in the way. I was fairly proficient last Saturday but I am expecting some visitors to the farm today so will have to "flow" (as we say in Ethiopia).

7:08 AM Alan's latest Scripture ... As We Live It is painfully true. Oh the coals of fire you pour upon my head! I am ashamed to say how well that describes me. Yes, I may think my gifts are horribly important, but have others nothing important to say?

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