Saturday, March 31
6:06 PM Tomorrow is going to be a great day. Nathan is preaching at a church in North Carolina, all of us will be serving the Lord's Supper at the local nursing home, then our revival meetings at Hunting Creek BC begin in the evening with a covered dish supper. Today Nate and I repaired an old barn roof in South Boston. We did much of it in the rain. Have you noticed how green everything is already? It won't be long before we are cutting and baling again. It seems like years since I last picked up bales of hay.
5:59 PM Here's a thoughtful essay on materialism. I agree with the author that when you have lived abroad it is often easier to gain a biblical perspective on "stuff." Why not read it and see if you agree?
7:28 AM A resolution passed this day, March 31st, in the Year of Our Lord 2007, at Bradford Hall, Virginia:
Whereas the John Austin family recently visited Rosewood Farm for a week;And whereas the John Austin family not only rested and relaxed but also worked indoors and out;And whereas the John Austin family men folk labored tirelessly to complete fencing in the eastern property line of Rosewood Farm;And whereas the John Austin family hopes to begin homesteading shortly;Therefore, BE IT RESOLVED that the eastern property line of Rosewood Farm shall henceforth be called the:
John Austin Family Fence
7:20 AM I just discovered en epheso, and I am mighty glad I did. The author discusses one of my favorite Pauline letters, Ephesians, and does so with constant reference to the Greek text. Wonderful. Incidentally, back in the Dark Ages I wrote my masters thesis at Talbot on those two highly disputed words, en Epheso, in Ephesians 1:1, arguing for their authenticity.
7:13 AM It's true: a picture is worth a thousand words. Here's Mohammed at his baptism in Alaba (he's on the right). God is good.
Friday, March 30
7:55 AM In New Testament times non-Christians would see the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers and come to Christ. Today many people are coming to faith when one of their family members is changed by the sheer power of the Gospel. I have seen this time and time again during our visits to Ethiopia. I think of a young man in a village in Alaba who became a believer and was immediately persecuted by his family. His father would mock and ridicule him in front of the entire village. But that young man stood his ground. Last January we were in his village. Now his father is elderly and ill, and when he heard that foreigners were there he asked us to come to his home and pray for him. It was our joy to do so (see photo). Maybe one day he will feel constrained by the love of his son and the other believers in his village to begin the life of discipleship. I fervently hope and pray so.
6:42 AM I have added the Carpenter family to my prayer list.
6:40 AM Short farm update: Yesterday we drove to Statesville, NC, to pick up a haybine. The trip took us 10 hours there and back. On the way we ran into a thunderstorm, and on the return trip we had to take side roads as the haybine is 11 feet wide. Nathan had to hug the center line the whole way, but he got us home safe and sound. Why the haybine? It allows us not only to cut our hay but also presses it and allows it to dry more quickly (1-2 days instead of 4-5 days). This year we'll be cutting 20 more acres than last year (which means an additional 1,000 bales each cutting), so the haybine will come in very handy. Below is a picture of the latest addition to Rosewood Farm. She's a beautiful piece of equipment. By the way, driving in the country is always a pleasure. You never know what you'll see. I saw this note written in large letters on someone's front porch: "Scott ____ don't pay his debts!" And then there was this sign at the entrance to a cemetery: "Easter Special: Two Plots for the Price of One." Keeps life interesting.
Thursday, March 29
8:08 AM I want to extend a very warm welcome to John, my good friend from Down Under and the host of Caesura, as he joins the blogging world. Here's a sample of his outstanding prose:
The older I get the more concerned I am that the simplicity that is in Christ is being drowned by a web of sophistication, ambition, and ecclesiastical formalism, which is quenching the Holy Spirit. I am concerned that many leaders seem to have the idea that our immutable God has lost His power to still do the amazing deeds of yesteryear, that somehow the days of the Great Reformation were a full stop instead of an exclamation mark!
7:52 AM Did you know that there are only 9 weeks to go before we get on a plane and fly to Addis Ababa? Becky is handling all of the details superbly. Meanwhile, here’s a portion of an email we just got from Alaba:
With regard to Besheno, last time the people could not able to worship at the new hut because a chairman refused to give permission. The people are using Tesfaye’s home for worship. Still we are struggling with the top government of the Alaba district. I hope some day in soon future we will build our church there. Still we need prayer in this regard.
You will recall that Tesfaye’s 8-year old daughter was murdered by the opponents of Christianity in Besheno. The church there is still suffering. Hebrews 13:3 tells us to “remember those who are mistreated.” Please pray for Tesfaye and the believers in Besheno.
7:47 AM I received a nice note from a Christian in Estonia asking me a question about textual criticism. There is very little one can explain in an email about such an enormous topic, but I can and do point others to this website for help. For what it’s worth, I’ve tried to spell out the ABCs of textual criticism in this book.
7:44 AM This weekend I begin four evenings of teaching at Hunting Creek Baptist Church in Nathalie, VA. This is a big treat for me, for several reasons. First of all, one of my former students shepherds there, Tony Sisk by name. Tony has a great blog that everybody should be reading on a regular basis. It’s called The Rambling Prophet. Second, Tony loves rural churches (as do I) and also has a great heart for missions. In fact, on Tuesday night our message will be on missions and Becky and I will be presenting our slides and videos on Ethiopia. I mention this because some of you may live in southern Virginia and might like to attend that meeting. Finally, as Tony is a former Greek student of mine, I thought I’d check his knowledge by having him translate ad hoc a passage from the Greek New Testament in front of the congregation. After all, why study Greek if you don’t plan on keeping it up? (Yes, Tony, I'm pulling your leg.)
7:40 AM This is one of the best websites I’ve found for anyone wanting to master spoken German.
7:37 AM One of my Greek students pilots a 747 and sent along this photo. I call that dedication.
7:33 AM God bless Ron Paul. Will he be elected president? I doubt it. But I thank the Lord for men like him who stand on firm constitutional principles.
7:31 AM Thousands are asking, “Have you finished the fencing yet?” Answer tomorrow.
7:27 AM Every week I meet lots of visitors, but yesterday I met a student from the Czech Republic who came to see me because he shares my passion for European missions and because he desires to teach theology there someday. We agreed that Europe is the “dark continent.” He is currently in the Ph.D. program here at the seminary. His visit was a reminder to me that our school is wonderfully situated here on the east coast to prepare servant-leaders for the church in Europe. Although I’ve said it before, the need for workers on that continent is enormous when compared with many other places.
7:24 AM What should the Lord’s Supper be all about? Here’s a reminder from Brian Andersen.
7:20 AM Special thanks to Patrick McCullough for mentioning us in his blog the other day. Blogging is a great way to communicate with people all over the world. Besides, where else does one have the opportunity to talk about surfing, farming, Greek, the church, and Ethiopia, all in one place? I think more and more students, pastors, and teachers will join the world of blogging in the future as they see its benefits. Thousands and thousands have already started.
7:16 AM In praise of mediocrity.
7:12 AM I’ve uploaded to the seminary website the syllabus for my Ph.D. course on Greek Linguistics. Click here if you'd like to read it (.pdf).
7:08 AM The Austins returned to their home in Abingdon yesterday. As I was teaching in Wake Forest I had to miss the farewells. We had laughter and lots of chatter while they were here, and we wish them all well as they chart their future course. One thing I learned from them during their visit was to love Moose Tracks ice cream. I now have a permanent fixation. I’m sure we’ll all be eating it in heaven when we get there.
Monday, March 26
6:59 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Doctrinal Blobdom.
6:53 AM Despite Shiloh's look of boredom, I know the puppies are really going to miss the Austins whey they leave this week. They have been a delight to have with us, not to mention all the work they've helped us with.
6:44 AM Monday morning shout out to all of our dear friends at Messiah Baptist Church in Wake Forest. Becky and I were honored to share with them yesterday some of what the Lord Jesus is doing in Ethiopia. Always nice to be in a church that realizes that the equipping of Christians for their ministries is ultimately not the work of a pastor but the task of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:4-7). Becky and I experienced deep fellowship that marks the true Body of Christ. Together, each one of us becomes a valuable part of the Body ministry. We simply minister on the basis of our gifts! How wonderful.
Sunday, March 25
7:27 AM More from George Muller's biography:
Expounding the Scriptures is most beneficial, especially when studying a whole gospel or epistle. This may be done either by entering minutely into the meaning of every verse or by giving the main points and leading the hearers to see the overall meaning of the whole book. Expounding the Scriptures encourages the congregation to bring their Bibles to church, and everything that leads believers to value the Scriptures is important.
7:22 AM The game last night was hotly contested. For a long time Joshua (left) held a commanding lead, but was finally overtaken by his nemesis.
Here Josh celebrates a triple word score with the lexeme "sifting."
We played every letter in the game, even though at the end we had to allow for a few abbreviations and foreign words.
Afterwards Jacob sought consolation from Sheba.
Saturday, March 24
6:26 PM Good news! All of the cedar posts have been cut, placed, and tamped down in our eastern property line, the whole of it, thanks to the help of John, Joshua, and Jacob Austin. Tomorrow is rest day, then on Monday the plan is to fence in the entire line in one day. You heard that right. This may take 5 or 6 rolls of woven wire and several doses of Naproxen. If so, that will be a new farm record for sure. Right now the ladies are in the kitchen busily preparing tonight's birthday dinner, Nathan and the boys have gone down to Oxford to swap out the manure trailers, and I'm getting caught up on emails. We had some extra excitement today when our Shelties decided to run off. Our male Shiloh was the first to return, bedraggled and worn-looking. I was worried about our female Sheba until she showed up on our front porch properly chastened. (Joshua thought he overheard Shiloh say, "The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she ran away first, and I simply followed her.") Both dogs have been sentenced to 20 days in the cooler (backyard) for escapink frrrom zis kamp. Tonight I've challenged the boys to a game of "Any-Language-You-Want" Scrabble. The line-up of tongues so far includes English, French, German, Spanish, Latin, and Greek. I'm trying to talk them into including Hawaiian (hee, hee).
Here are some pix from today for your enjoyment. Miss Jessica was a big help with Mrs. Black's raised garden beds.
Miss Julia also lent a helping hand -- and a beautiful smile.
The final product of today's efforts.
The girls also painted our statuary out in the front yard.
I have rarely met such cheerful and helpful young ladies. Looking ahead to tomorrow, Becky Lynn and I will be with the Messiah Baptist Church congregation for most of the day, while the Austin children hope to land some bass from our pond for supper. We hope you a have a great Lord's Day wherever you are. God's richest blessings, von Haus zu Haus.
7:59 AM Today Becky and the young ladies have garden work to do. The guys hope to finish a big chunk of our recalcitrant property line. Tonight we're having a steak dinner in honor of the birthday girl.
Happy B-Day, Julie!
7:51 AM Last night John, Nathan, and I were in the office checking realtors' websites. In the library next door the Austin children were entertaining 3 little boys who were visiting while their parents had dinner in Clarksville. It was a great joy for me to hear Jacob Austin reading to young Caleb. Jacob is an excellent reader. His cadence, clarity, and pitch are simply outstanding. That's true of all the Austin children.
7:45 AM This sight greeted me this morning. We have prayed fervently for good weather this week for fencing and farm-hunting. The Lord Jesus has graciously supplied. Praise His name.
7:38 AM I suppose I have several pet peeves as a teacher, but one of my biggest is finding an un-erased blackboard. I've always made it my habit to erase the board at the end of class every day, and I expect that courtesy from others. Yet how often I fail to erase the blackboard of my personal goals, plans, and ambitions! When I am faced with a decision, I must erase the board and hand the chalk to the Lord Jesus Christ. What goals does He have for me? What gifts am I failing to exercise to their greatest potential? What relationships am I neglecting? What must I leave behind in life? Take unto myself? Embrace? Avoid? And how can I do any of this if I am so earth-bound, so mortal, so finite and human? This I do know: if I depend on my strength to accomplish anything in life, it will come to nothing. Trust in the Lord -- this is my goal. Allow Him to erase the board. Give Him back the chalk I have snatched from His nail-scarred hands.
Friday, March 23
1:27 PM Quick update: We just enjoyed chili, cornbread, and salad for lunch. The Austin boys helped Nathan and me clear more of the eastern fence line. This afternoon we need to dig postholes and put in cedars along the line. If we can accomplish this task today that would be a huge blessing from the Lord. Joshua and Jacob are very hard workers. Scratches and cuts with nary a complaint. The weather couldn't be more suitable for working outdoors: 82 degrees, with a light breeze. I've worked in a t-shirt for the first time this year. We're all enjoying the Austins' visit but no one more than Shiloh and Sheba, especially when it comes time to clean the dinner plates. Right now I need to check Joshua's translation of Revelation chapter 1, then it's back to the great outdoors.
7:43 AM Our beginning Greek grammar has 26 lessons, which means that we must cover 13 chapters each semester. It is my delightful duty to hornswoggle everyone into learning their lessons. We are discovering that between mastering the Greek alphabet and mastering Greek exegesis is a long and often bumpy road. Often our studies are interrupted by "real life," difficult personal or family trials. This has happened on many occasions in the lives of my students already this semester. Life is tough, pure and simple. How should we then live when we face suffering? 1 Peter 2:21 has the answer: by following the example (hupogrammos) of Jesus. The word hupogrammos was sometimes used in the ancient world to describe a tablet that contained all the letters of the Greek alphabet from alpha to omega. Students would use it to practice the formation of the Greek characters by tracing its letters.
As disciples of Jesus, we are to use His life as just such a character-forming tablet. I don't know about you, but when it comes to unwanted difficulties I sometimes feel like I've gotten to the letter beta and no further. Like learning Greek, trials may not be pleasant at times, but we can still consider them as faith-building experiences, and may even learn to rejoice in them.
7:34 AM "The louder he spoke of his honor, the faster we counted the spoons." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Thursday, March 22
5:13 PM Two years ago today I lost my favorite horse to cancer. I expressed my sorrow here. Funny, I miss him as if it happened yesterday. God is so kind to me to have allowed me to have such a good friend.
4:50 PM Nice note from Australia:
You said, *It’s not our main business to denounce organized iniquity in
the public square, although that has its place. The best way to expose
the unfruitful works of darkness is by producing the kind of Christians
who will have no fellowship with them – and who will love those who
practice them still. Can I get a witness?*
Brother! What can I say but AMEN!!!
3:21 PM We're having a wonderful time with the Austins. The children are eager to work. Joshua, the computer guru, has volunteered to help us install our new speakers and to teach us how to publish video clips to our blog.
What would farm life be like without shoveling horse manure?
...or spreading it on the garden beds?
On a walk through the woods we ran across some of nature's great mysteries, including this egg pouch. The gooier the better.
The ladies have hardly been idle. In addition to cooking our meals, they planted our onions today.
...and did some baking.
I've never met a young lady who didn't like horses, have you? Miss Julia is no exception.
Right now Becky and the ladies have gone to run errands. I think I smell chicken cooking in the kitchen. John is doing some reading in the library. Nathan and the boys are busy in fields.God is so good.
7:24 AM We have many bright Ph.D. students at SEBTS. One of them is Mr. Alan Knox. Recently I interviewed Alan, and here is the result.
7:21 AM I just sent out 4 more sets of CDs and workbooks to users of Learn to Read New Testament Greek. If you would like these helps, please don’t hesitate to let me know.
7:17 AM Snowclones for Jesus, anyone?
7:12 AM Yesterday Becky and I received this beautiful color drawing of our "Ethiopian Children" from Miss Elise of Rocky Mount, VA. Many thanks, young lady. Wonderfully done.
7:08 AM Evangelical culture warriors are in the news again in a big way. It reminds me of the so-called “space race.” All the money, all the effort to “reach for the moon.” In the church, we have a similar set of misplaced priorities, I think. We aim at the stars (societal change) while the greatest of all objectives is ignored – preaching the Gospel to every creature. Some of us are so obsessed with lesser goals that we fall short of the main accomplishment. Again, I point the finger at no one other than myself. If you are reading less and less about politics at DBO it’s not because I have become less concerned about statism in America. I haven't! I have simply chosen a higher goal – one that the apostle Paul said was in fact unattainable in its entirety – to know Christ, and the power of His resurrection through the fellowship of His sufferings (so I take the Greek). Paul did not lecture on homosexuality in Philippi or on abortion in Ephesus. But when his hearers became Christians they no longer practiced evil. It’s not our main business to denounce organized iniquity in the public square, although that has its place. The best way to expose the unfruitful works of darkness is by producing the kind of Christians who will have no fellowship with them – and who will love those who practice them still. Can I get a witness?
6:55 AM I am enjoying reading George Muller’s autobiography. Every time I pick it up I find my spirit deeply stirred.
6:48 AM Now here’s a delightful slant on some of my favorite verses from 1 Thess. 5:
We encourage you, brothers, to straighten out the cantankerous, lend a hand to the spiritual runts, doctor the sickly, and get along with everybody. See that no one pays back another evil for evil, but always press for the good in one another and in everybody. Always be cheerful. Never quit praying. Be thankful for everything, for this is God’s will for you.
6:44 AM Dwight L. Moody:
I got full of it. It ran out my fingers. You take up the subject of love in the Bible! You will get so full of it that all you have got to do is to open your lips, and a flood of the Love of God flows out upon the meeting. There is no use trying to do church work without love. A doctor, a lawyer, may do good work without love, but God’s work cannot be done without love.
6:40 AM I once had an outstanding Greek student in California named Neil Cole. He has since become a leading spokesman for church renewal. Neil has a knack for pithy comments about the Body of Christ. Here’s a list of them. See what you think.
6:37 AM Pick me up off the floor! I can’t wait to get a copy of this book!
Wednesday, March 21
8:30 PM John, Julie, Joshua, Jacob, Jessica, Julia, and Joy Austin arrived safe and sound at about 4:40. We just got back from Wednesday night Bible study. Right now we're getting ready for an ice cream bash. We're looking forward to spending the week together. It will be a very busy one.
Tuesday, March 20
5:55 AM We received this wonderful email today:
While browsing I came across your web page and read what you wrote about your visit to Ethiopia. God bless you and keep up the good work you and your wife are doing around the world. As an Ethiopian Christian I say thank you for reaching the unreached in my country.Sincerely,
5:49 AM I'm glad to see Just Janet blogging again. And thank you so very kindly for the link.
5:45 AM In case anybody is interested, my fall teaching schedule is now set. As usual, I will have three classes on campus: Seminar in Greek Linguistics (Ph.D course; Tuesdays, 7:30-10:00 am); Greek 1 (Tuesdays, 6:30-9:30 pm); and New Testament Introduction 1 (Wednesdays, 12:30-3:30 pm). For you doctoral students, I hope to have a preliminary syllabus of the linguistics course up on the seminary website no later than tomorrow afternoon. If you any further questions don't hesitate to call or write. I am here to serve you, not you me.
5:41 AM This week we welcome back to Rosewood Farm some very special friends. They'll be bringing along their violins and piano music, as well as their work clothes (fencing, anyone?). Here's a photo from a previous visit on an Easter Sunday:
You will be hard-pressed to find a sweeter family. Welcome back, Austins. We love you.
Monday, March 19
7:55 AM Recently my wife emailed one of our Ethiopian sons. Among other items of discussion she addressed the topic of methods in missions. I thought you would enjoy this portion of her email:
Our Lord can use any method, of course...or He can use no method...because in the final analysis the work of the new birth is by His Spirit. Here in the United States we have a million different programs for evangelism...every program says that it is guaranteed to work, that it is the best, that God uses it more than any other. Often the programs will say something like "It's proven that 90% of the people to whom this method of evangelism is presented will become Christians."But we cannot put God into a box. His most powerful tools are a pure life, a life of love, and a good understanding of the Scriptures. So we must work with the people to keep themselves holy, focused on God, surrendered to Him. And we must constantly teach and demonstrate love, sacrificing for each other, caring for those who cannot repay us, sympathizing with those who are hurting. And we must teach the Scriptures, verse by verse, paragraph by paragraph, so that the people will be able to give an answer for the hope in them, able to clearly explain the Gospel and its effect upon our lives.
Below is a picture of Tesfaye from Alaba, whose 8-year old daughter was beheaded two years ago by the Muslims because her family was Christian.
When I asked him how he accounted for the success he is having in evangelizing the Muslims of his rural village, his answer blew me away: "We simply live godly lives, and we love and care for our Muslim neighbors." His answer brought tears to my eyes. No gimmicks. No pre-packaged and pre-digested program imported from America. Becky is right: God can use any method, or no method at all. But He always works through people, people who love and care and live genuine Christian lives. One of my constant prayers is that an over-reliance on methods will never hinder the work of God in Alaba. So, can you visualize yourself living in a network of redemptive relationships in genuine friendship? That's a very powerful means God can use, as it eliminates the temptation to come on as "Mr. and Mrs. Wonderful" who must be virtually perfect (and probably also very plastic). Be real, be yourself, love and forgive others as Christ has loved and forgiven you, and stand back and watch the Holy Spirit do His work.
What are the dollies doing in the picture, you ask? Two girls in Virginia were moved by the Holy Spirit to give their favorite dolls to Tesfaye's two surviving daughters. Now that's love, wouldn't you say?
7:31 AM George Muller (Autobiography, p. 21):
I was growing in the faith and knowledge of Jesus, but I still preferred reading religious books instead of the Scriptures. I read tracts, missionary newsletters, and biographies of Christian people. God is the author of the Bible, and only the truth it contains will lead people to true happiness. A Christian should read this precious Book every day with earnest prayer and meditation. But like many believers, I preferred to read the works of uninspired men rather than the oracles of the living God. Consequently, I remained a spiritual baby in knowledge and grace.
How very true. Stupidly we have this idea that the Bible is an ancillary textbook to the works of men. In my time I have been perhaps the worst offender. Maybe that's why I remained a spiritual baby for so long. But I will say this, and admit it freely: 99 percent of what I know about God I did not learn in college or seminary or graduate school; I have learned it from tasting of the water of life through the personal reading and study of God's Word. Young man, young woman, please do not wait as long as I did to learn this invaluable lesson.
7:24 AM You can tell it's getting to be springtime around here. Becky just received a big box of seeds.
7:20 AM Some friends of ours from North Carolina are contemplating a move to Charlotte County, Virginia, just north of us. Not a bad move, if you ask me. Here are a few reasons why Charlotte County is "the place to be":
The county has an aquarium - at the local convenience store, stocked with live minnows.
There are several local museums - to visit, just ask for a key.
For fun on Monday nights, people go to Bolton's for pickin' and singin'.
For fun on Friday nights, people go to Philbeck's for pickin' and singin'.
The local quilting society meets at Phenix Presbyterian Church on Mondays, 9 to 4.
There's no place to go that you shouldn't as long as you stop first and ask.
There are several local museums - to visit, just ask for a key.
For fun on Monday nights, people go to Bolton's for pickin' and singin'.
For fun on Friday nights, people go to Philbeck's for pickin' and singin'.
The local quilting society meets at Phenix Presbyterian Church on Mondays, 9 to 4.
There's no place to go that you shouldn't as long as you stop first and ask.
You can read more reasons here.
Sunday, March 18
5:46 PM Today Becky and I reached a gigantic milestone in our marriage. We unpacked our Rockwood tent trailer for the last time. We've sold it to a family in Oxford, NC, who we hope will get as much enjoyment out of it as we did.
Each year we would take long vacations with our van and trailer. Who can ever forget Hobson Park on the California Coast or Tamarisk Grove in the desert near San Diego or Calico Ghost Town or our month-long study tour of Texas (we called it "History 101") or the Grand Canyon or the Petrified Forest or the Meteor Crater or the Carlsbad Caverns or the Little Big Horn or Mount Rushmore or Bryce, Zion, Yellowstone, and umpteen other National Parks? Becky recalls the time we were camping and a good friend of ours from Switzerland, "Tante Erika," was with us. It just so happened that a group of Swiss tourists sauntered by our camp site, and Tante Erika and I got into a long conversation with one of them, a lady. At one point the lady said to us, not knowing I was an American, "How in the world can you stand America?" I wish you could have seen the look on her face when I broke into American English!
Those were fun-filled family times. I get teary-eyed thinking about them. We shall never forget them. So long, old trailer. You served us well.
7:53 AM The Mize family adventure now includes blogging. I am excited to see how the Lord leads you guys!
7:49 AM Here's one reason why Pennsylvania Dutch is on the wane. And, no, PD is not the same as High German, though I could get along fairly well speaking German with the Amish on a visit to Lancaster County a couple of years ago. In case you're interested, here's a sample of PD which any student of German should be able to translate with ease:
Des pennsilfaanisch-deitsche Schprooch,
Des schteht verleicht im G’faahr.
Ya, unser Mudderschprooch iss net
So rein, ass wie devor.
7:42 AM I share this man's passion for the language of the New Testament!
7:38 AM Travelers to Ethiopia, meet injera. It's to Ethiopians what rice is to the Japanese, except that it also functions as a utensil. Soft, fluffy, and pancake-like, it's eaten with "wats" made of chicken stew, lentils, and other delicacies. The taste? A bit vinegary, but nothing to complain about. Whenever Becky and I go to an Ethiopian restaurant we keep asking for more and more; somehow it keeps running out. It is the base for all Ethiopian cuisine. You'll love it, I guarantee. Here Becky is being given a personalized lesson on how to make injera during our trip to Ethiopia last January.
And the final product....
7:24 AM Here's a nice tribute to my friend and colleague Darrell Bock of Dallas Seminary, who is an able defender of Christianity against its many detractors. Darrell will be one of our featured speakers at our Last Twelve Verses of Mark Conference next month.
Saturday, March 17
2:45 PM This email arrived recently:
Your vocab cd and extra questions just came in the mail. Thank you so much for sending them to me. I will listen to the cd as I drive to work and back. The more ways I can get Greek to absorb into me the better! I'm just working through 3rd declension nouns right now, comforting myself that the rest will be easier!
If you are using Learn to Read New Testament Greek and would like a free copy of my pronunciation CD and workbook, just send me a note with your mailing address.
2:32 PM News and Notes.... Last night Becky and I enjoyed the movie Ben Hur. Loved this quote: "You're treating my horses like animals!".... Today's it's too cold and wet to get any work done on the farm. The Lord must know our bodies need a break.... Looking ahead to tomorrow, B and I will be back at Tabernacle Baptist Church in South Hill, which is sending 2 of their members with us this summer to Alaba. Intrepid souls indeed.... At the local feed store today I learned that today's cold spell with be the last one for the year. Once the weather warms up again it will stay that way. "It never gets cold again after Saint Paddy's day." Don't you love country living?
2:15 PM When I went to Basel in 1980 I had two scholastic ambitions. One was to study under the magisterial New Testament scholar Bo Reicke. Prof. Reicke and his wife had met with me in Los Angeles and we had struck it off well, so he accepted me as one of his doctoral students -- provided I passed my Greek and Latin orals in Basel. My other goal was to improve my Greek, and to do this I decided to take a course with Prof. Bernhard Wyss, an expert in ancient Greek philology. The staple of the course was ninth century minuscule script -- how to decipher it and, eventually, to read manuscripts dating from that period of history. I took to Wyss immediately; he was a kindred spirit (all Greek lovers tend to be, I suppose) and a charming Swiss eccentric. My most grievous surprise was when I was called upon to recite Greek in class, and my Hawaiian-American-Greek accent caused quite a stir (German speakers do not, for example, pronounce the letter theta as an American might). The reward for our efforts in this class ("our" refers to the 3 students who had signed up for the course, and the 2 students who had survived it) was to visit the university library where we were given access to several ancient Greek manuscripts, including those used by the famous Dutch humanist Erasmus when he was editing his Greek New Testament in Basel. It was a significant occasion for me; it marked a turning point or, rather, a point of return. It was a confirmation of my love, not only of Greek grammar, but also of the subject of textual criticism. If anyone wants to study that science, Greek covers a multitude of omissions. For me, that course with Dr. Wyss was the door to the dim, remote past of the Greek language, and the superannuated schoolboy from Hawaii could not but help see untellably large implications for his ministry as a Greek teacher.
The moral of this little story? I really don't have one, unless it is this: As I look back over my scholastic preparation, I see that I was inexorably attracted not so much to an institution as to individuals -- Reicke, the justly famous yet humble New Testament scholar, and Wyss, lesser-known but no less a scholar. These men (and many others as well -- Profs. Barth, Lochman, Schmidt, Baltensweiler, to name a few) made an indelible imprint on my life, all of which, I think, is reason for profound gratitude to God.
Below: The home of the Theologisches Seminar of the University of Basel on the historic Nadelberg in the heart of the old city. The structure dates to the 13th century and was once used as as pub. I spent hours on end in this quant old building while researching my dissertation. My favorite spot to linger was the "dissertation room," which contained all of the doctoral dissertations in theology ever written at the University of Basel.
Friday, March 16
11:58 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Praying for the Lost.
Thursday, March 15
8:37 PM We just had our latest "line ceremony," when Nathan draws a black line on our satellite map where we've just completed some more fencing work. Only about a third of a mile to go.
5:53 PM How do you explain the loyalty of a dog? My pups are constantly seeking my companionship. If I get up and move to another room, they get up and patter along with me. If I sit down, they plop themselves down within a five foot radius of my feet, and always in a position where they can see my eyes. Is it just Shelties, or are all dogs that way? What marvelous creatures!
5:40 PM Got another big chunk of fencing done today. And just in time. A big storm will be arriving this evening. We hope to complete the last leg of the new pasture this weekend. That will open up an additional 30 acres for our cattle. It's crunch time, though. Already the trees are beginning to sprout their leaves, and soon the forests will be too thick to work in. One thing I really do enjoy about this time of year is the temperature. It was a perfect 78 degrees today.
5:35 PM What waiting in an airport can teach us.
9:10 AM One more thing before going to work on the farm. Here's a huge Bradford Hall "thank you" to master videographer Joshua Austin of Abingdon, VA, for sending us a CD of our Ethiopia presentation in Tennessee last month. Becky and I watched the whole thing last night after she got home from work. It is wonderfully produced and edited. If we ever need videotaping in the future we'll know where to turn. Many thanks, young man. You are very special indeed.
9:05 AM If you aim at nothing you'll hit it every time. That's the advice I've been dishing out this week in meeting with students who are interested in pursuing doctoral studies after graduation. I always ask them, "Are you really ready for the rigors of post-graduate work?" For some, it might be better to take a break before launching out into the deep. That's how I felt in my second year of college. I had fallen out of love with learning. My studies had become stale and morose. What to do? I clearly needed a break, so I decided to take a hiatus from college for a semester. I declared a "moratorium" on education, returned to Hawaii, got a job in a fancy Waikiki hotel, and surfed all day and bussed tables at night.
For me it was an all-important caesura, a critical pause, a turning point. I had regained my perspective on life and education. It was a change of incalculable importance. It sustained me through an additional 3 years of college, 5 years of seminary, and 3 years of doctoral studies. Are you in need of a break from school? There's no shame in admitting it. It may be just what the doctor ordered.
8:54 AM "Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from far away" (Prov. 25:25). One of the leaders in the Burji church, Oshe, has just sent along some very good news about this summer's mission trip. He has arranged for village transportation, has distributed the team mugshots (so that everyone in Burji will recognize their sister-church members from Bethel Hill Baptist Church), and has arranged the classes the team members will be teaching. The computer course will have 12 students, pastor Jason will have over a 100 in his Bible class, the children's classes will consist of 7 groups of 25 children each, and several government school teachers and administrators will be attending the English workshop. And get this. Our village team will minister to members of the following rural churches: Gamiyo, Kilicho, Sego, Obaya, Mure, Urumgakara, Wordaya, Rayala Goche, Rayala Bila, Bariafa, Dagimaw Charayle, Nedele one, Nedele two, Dale Abala, Kinsa, Toga, Yele, Halame, Sharigo, Hamesha, Shule, Yebano, and Koro. Many of these churches are in strong Muslim areas. Finally, a nice serendipity. Oshe writes: "In every village you will go you will find nice Shintabets, because I already informed each leader on this issue." A shintabet is, of course, an open-air outhouse consisting of a hole in the ground. Isn't the Lord good!
Below right: Brother Oshe examines a new hand-cranked tape recorder we bought for the Burji church. It plays stories about Jesus for use in rural evangelism.
8:43 AM Jim Rudd sent along a link to this story about the great Kentucky horse give-away. Horse upkeep is indeed very expensive, if you do it right. But is there a more magnificent animal on the planet?
Wednesday, March 14
6:55 PM Right now Becky is at the ICU working for Ethiopia, Nathan is at church working with the youth, and I am here going through my prayer list. My heart feels so heavy, so burdened. There are so many lost I am praying for, both here in the States and in Ethiopia. I pray for each person by name. It may take years before I can scratch their name off my salvation prayer list. "O that my Savior were your Savior too!" I can't get that thought out of my heart and mind. I have not always felt this way about the lost. Years I spent in vanity and pride, chasing after this ephemeral pursuit or that temporal goal. I am gradually learning that all this is vanity of vanities. As I prayed in chapel this morning, when it comes to selfishness I am the chief of sinners. The bright side is that God can take a selfish person and make him (or her) selfless, even willing to lose their life for the Gospel's sake. That is truly Good News.
Are you praying for the lost as you ought? Am I? Souls are dying all around us. Let us pray with faith, believing!
5:33 PM If you’ve enjoyed reading the Rambling Prophet’s blog entry on wealth, you may also want to read this memorable quote by the one-and-only Malcolm Muggeridge:
I may, I suppose, regard myself, or pass for being, a relatively successful man. People occasionally stare at me in the streets — that’s fame. I can fairly easily earn enough to qualify for admission to the higher slopes of the Inland Revenue — that’s success. Furnished with money and a little fame even the elderly, if they care to, may partake of trendy diversions — that’s pleasure. It might happen once in a while that something I said or wrote was sufficiently heeded for me to persuade myself that it represented a serious impact on our time — that’s fulfillment. Yet I say to you, and I beg you to believe me, multiply these tiny triumphs by a million, add them all together, and they are nothing — less than nothing — a positive impediment — measured against one draught of that living water Christ offers to the spiritually thirsty — irrespective of who or what they are.
This says it all. Little wonder I am such a Muggerophile!
5:26 PM Greek Students! Cincinnati Christian University has published a helpful list of Greek resources used at their school. This is a great supplement to the Epilogue in our own textbook. And for an application of the approach taken in New Testament Textual Criticism: A Concise Guide, go here. Really cool!
5:22 PM Here’s a tribute to a great friend of mine and the general editor of the International Standard Version project. Kudos, George! I well remember when George led Becky and me on a personal tour of Mount Zion in Jerusalem. He knew every nook and cranny, as well he should have, having served as the president of Jerusalem University College in a prior life.
5:18 PM Looking for an overview of modern English versions of the Bible? Look no further.
5:15 PM The Bodmer papyri have been acquired by the Vatican and apparently will be made available for study to scholars.
5:12 PM The host of A Surface Below just visited Addis Ababa. His reactions are here. Actually my first impressions of the city were very similar.
5:07 PM Ethiopia team members! Click here if you would like to listen to a native Ethiopian reading English aloud. It’s a very good example of what you’ll encounter this summer.
5:00 PM For a useful list of wikipages on religion and theology, click here.
4:57 PM If for any reason you decide you need to raise your blood pressure, this story over at LRC about a national ID card should do just that.
4:55 PM Erskine College in Due West, South Carolina, is seeking to fill a position in Biblical Studies. Also Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho, announces an opening inTheology. Ph.D. students, be encouraged. There are jobs out there!
4:50 PM I know, I know, you’re sick of reading about the “Jesus tomb,” but Berit Kjos is dead right about those who mock the heart of Christianity. I must say that the more I read the New Testament – and I read it quite a lot – the more impressed I am with the veracity of the Gospels and the inanity of self-proclaimed Bible experts. Aren’t you?
Monday, March 12
5:26 PM We did more fencing today. It's a slow process. I think there are many parallels between putting up fencing and digging a tunnel, say the one they used in the Great Escape from Stalag Luft 3 in March of 1944.
You measure progress in feet, even inches. You are constantly going back and forth, back and forth along the line. You use whatever material and manpower you have, not what you'd like necessarily. I, for one, am a total klutz. If there's something to trip on, I'll find it. If my left foot is caught in a vine, my right foot, in seeking to prevent a fall, will inevitable step on a tree stump. I just keep telling myself, "Persevere, persevere, persevere. One day you'll look back and wonder what all the fuss was about." In addition, our standards of work are very high. After all, our goal is to make Rosewood an intergenerational farm, so this here fence had better last a long time. I entertain the fantasy that one day someone will say, "That's the fence your granddaddy put up."
5:12 PM A big Monday shout out to Caleb and Isaac Rondeau (along with their dad) who came to Bradford Hall yesterday and helped us with our vegetable garden. What a labor of time and love. We appreciate it very much.
5:08 PM Got a royalty check yesterday. The total? Three dollars and 35 cents. Don't wait for the movie version, friends.
Sunday, March 11
8:47 AM Last night Nathan and I listened to organist Carol Curly play a 16-minute rendition ofHow Bright Appears the Morning Star. Fantastic words and music. The line I like the most?
Ride on, ride on, great Conqueror,
Till all know thy salvation.
Amen and amen.
8:32 AM Tomorrow night is our third orientation meeting for Team Alaba. Among the many customs about Ethiopia we will be teaching them is the fact that men hold hands with each other when walking. I experienced this in India also. It felt awkward at first, but it's something I now accept and enjoy. Men are not afraid to show affection and intimacy in public. It carries no sexual overtones whatsoever. But you always hold hands with the same sex. I have never seen a husband and a wife holding hands in Ethiopia. It's just not culturally done, though I must admit that Becky and I have broken this "rule" on occasion!
Here I am with our adopted son Nigussie in the village of Deda, Ethiopia.
8:20 AM "Nomen erat omen." That's what I thought while reading about Governor Felix yesterday evening in Acts 23. His name means, roughly, "Mr. Happy." It as a reminder that names in the New Testament have meanings. Paul means "Little." Timothy means "God-Honorer." Silvanus means "Forrest." A classic example is Onesimus ("Useful"), whose name is behind the wonderful play on words in Philemon 10-11. My name is Black, although I an white. There are two explanations. Some think the surname derives from the swarthy color of skin we had. (In Hawaii I was as a dark as dark gets.) Others that we were fierce warriors (we wore black paint on our faces before going into battle). Never overlook the meaning of a biblical name. You may miss something of great importance.
By the way, one of Felix's successors was Albinus -- Mr. White!
8:12 AM Here's a brief excerpt from an email Becky just sent to a dear friend. It encapsulates our heart for Ethiopia.
Our heart is so much with these dear people! They suffer so for our Lord, without complaint. Suffering is such a normal part of the Christian's life there, it's just a routine expectation. Even though it's a routine expectation, they are SO appreciative of our sharing the suffering with them in prayer and material help. Their suffering is greatly eased when they are reminded that they are not alone...our Lord is with them, and we are with them.
Saturday, March 10
5:59 PM I'm delighted to see Frank and Rowena Drinkhouse blogging. They're the intrepid purveyors of Reformation Tours. I see they like photos almost as much as I do. Nice job, guys, and thanks for the link!
2:10 PM Oops. Enchiladas, not lasagna. And boy was it good.
12:32 PM We're done with the cow. We started at 6:00 this morning. We're about to sit down to a wonderful lasagna meal prepared by the one and only Liz Rondeau. My thanks to all who helped today: Jason, Chris, Kennon, Sherree, Steve, and Thomas Gray for loaning us his tractor with its front end loader. I think we're getting this down to a science.
5:44 AM In 1978 Becky and I spent 3 months in (West) Germany serving with Greater Europe Mission. We were headquartered at the German Bible Institute in the beautiful village of Seeheim on the Bergstrasse.
I will never forget arriving at the gate to the school. In iron letters over the entrance stood these words: "In Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." I thought,What a marvelous motto for a Bible school! We must never look for any source of wisdom and knowledge outside of Christ. No man has anything to offer that cannot be found in incomparably superior degree in Him. Why, then, do we become so devoted to this Bible teacher or that great scholar? We are to be rooted and established in Christ as the infinite source of our salvation and sanctification. And it is in Christ's Word, God's special revelation, that we discover the mind of Christ. The church need not and must not look for any other source of wisdom and knowledge. It is to Christ, and to Christ alone, that the church owes its growth. Any system of education that is unwilling to acknowledge Jesus Christ as the only and all-sufficient source of truth is an indulgence to the flesh and human pride. Don't be impressed by "scholars" who make a show of their knowledge. You have died to the world's puerile notions. Be a Bible reader, first and always.
Friday, March 9
5:47 PM Three and a half rolls of fencing put up today. A new farm record. We've finished the entire northern property line. That's a miracle. Praise the Lord and pass the Aspercream!
Tomorrow we're processing another beef cow.
8:12 AM This is great news for students who live on the Left Coast.
8:05 AM Tony Sisk, the Visiting Pastor, offers some good advice about funerals.
7:59 AM In case you're interested, the title of my paper for our Mark Conference is: "Mark 16:9-20: Mark's Conclusion to Peter's Discourses." As soon as I get the titles from the other speakers I'll note them here.
7:50 AM If you don't think that New Testament scholarship can get out of hand sometimes,think again. Reminds me of something Malcolm Muggeridge once wrote (Daily Telegraph, 1966):
It is not surprising that the ministry should attract crackpots, eccentrics and oddities who in happier times would have appeared as characters in Waugh’s earlier novels rather than as beneficed clergymen. Scarcely a day goes by but some buffoon in holy orders makes an exhibition of himself in one way or another, more often than not on the subject of sex—that pons asinorum of our time. Can it be wondered at, then, that the Church’s voice, when heard, is more often than not greeted with derision or just ignored?
7:20 AM On our final night in Alaba last January, there was speechifying made by a lot of people, yours truly included.
Even today I have difficulty putting into words what the Ethiopians mean to me. They are the most unique people on earth. Even the poorest peasants have a sense of dignity, nobility even, to them. They are the most gracious, kind, friendly, and hospitable people you will ever meet. They have wrapped their arms around Becky and me and opened to us their hearts and their homes. They love us, and we love them. It is a very close fellowship. But it is primarily a fellowship in promoting the work of the Gospel, an active and eager cooperation in Gospel activity and kingdom work. In fact, in the hearts of the Alabans there is room for others besides Becky and me. They are eager for their lost friends and family members to join their number, and in spite of all obstacles have never lost their first love. The lesson? God's work of grace is not for selfish purposes. It qualifies us for work, for a life of service. Like Paul, I am confident that God will not permit His good work of grace to remain unfinished in the lives of the Ethiopians. One day that work will be completed; but meanwhile the dawning light shines brighter and brighter.
6:56 AM I haven't posted a photo of surfing in a long time. Here's a shot of the Hawaiian super left called the Banzai Pipeline. The break is so hard that a wave can easily snap your board in two. I know. It happened to me in 1968. Always a phenomenal ride at Pipeline.
6:52 AM Heartiest congratulations to Mr. Robert Miller upon his acceptance into the Ph.D. program at SEBTS. I look forward to working with you, Brother Rob.
6:43 AM Consider this (from Robert Kornikau and Frank McElroy, Communication for the Safety Professional, National Safety Council: Chicago  p. 370). We retain:
10 percent of what we read,
20 percent of what we hear,
30 percent of what we see,
50 percent of what we see and hear,
70 percent of what we say, and
90 percent of what we say and do.
Disciples are not students; they are apprentices, living and working with their master-teacher. Jesus said, "Make disciples."
Thursday, March 8
5:20 PM Three more rolls of woven wire put up. Perfect weather. Bone tired. Chinese food tonight. Life is good.
7:55 AM Speaking of anger, you'll find this sign just outside of Leipzig:
Grammarians would call this "anger" sign a false friend because there is no semantic relationship between the German word and its meaning in English. Perhaps the classic example in German is the word "Gift," which means "poison"! Not all instances are valid, however. Perhaps the worst example is the story about the poor sales of the Chevy Nova in Latin America because "no va" in Spanish means "it doesn't go." Sorry, just a legend.
7:50 AM You might find this quote helpful in light of Alan Knox's latest blog entry:
If an older man is above reproach, spiritually matured, apt to teach, and interested in saving souls, he doesn't have to have one ounce of authority to be of service to others and to advance the cause of Christ. He will never have to demand that people respect and obey him, for that will be given to him gladly. Furthermore, if he is Christ-like in every area of his life, showing the same love qualities for others as did Jesus, people will be persuaded by his teaching and example and will yield to his wisdom. This is the essence of the "elder's rule." It is a standard, the standard of Christ, rather than an exercise of commanded obedience. Yes, the elder rules, but according to the wisdom of God, not according to the dictates of man.
7:39 AM I once published a little essay on the text of Matthew 5:22,* asking this question: Did Jesus condemn all anger, or only anger "without cause"? In other words, do you believe in "righteous indignation"? Is it ever right to get angry? I would like to know what Jesus said about this subject, wouldn't you, but it's impossible to tell without doing textual criticism. Now, I am not a textual critic by any stretch of the imagination. But I do see the relevance of textual criticism for exegesis. Not all do. If you're interested in this topic, I want to personally invite you to attend our upcoming conference on the last twelve verses of Mark in April. Present company excluded, you will hear from some of the world's leading New Testament scholars. You can go here for more information.
*"Jesus on Anger: The Text of Matthew 5:22a Revisited," Novum Testamentum 30 (1988) pp. 1-8.
6:57 AM The work of the Burji team this summer will include computer training and instruction in school administration. We are hoping to attract non-believers to our sessions so that they may see the Good News. Yes, I said "see." Our Lord Jesus taught by the method of doing, not just hearing. "Let your light shine before others in such a way that they will see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." Of course, we realize it does little good to educate people without introducing them to the Savior. We may teach them how to read and write and literally send them on their way to a Christ-less eternity. Our team will try very hard not to forget that the purpose of God for man is for man to be reconciled, not just given an improved lifestyle. Look at the lifestyle in America, coupled with untold unhappiness! God is concerned with the whole person, and so are we. We seek to serve others without any strings attached, giving God's blessings to all we meet. Our only prerequisite is to be filled with the Spirit, and in touch with Outsiders.
By the way, the elders in Burji just sent us some pix of the new meeting hall. It is well on its way to completion. The idea to terrace the hillside to prevent flooding was Nathan's when he went to Ethiopia last summer.
Tuesday, March 6
5:55 AM We had our third orientation meeting last night for our Burji team. And a long meeting it was, lasting almost 4 hours. There was much to do: Prayer time, Bible study, sharing book reports, turn in copies of Drivers Licenses and Passports and emergency contact people, discuss airline dates and itinerary, go through ministry preparation reports and special needs list, discuss Ethiopian Visas and personal packing list, review Ethiopian language, customs, greetings, etc. The one thing that impressed me the most? Our unity. No prima donnas. No one struggling through "issues." Just a bunch of normal, busy believers from every conceivable walk of life who are taking a huge step of faith with absolute confidence in the One who is sending us. I wish you could be there with us. I really do. Such a sweet, sweet spirit. Our final meeting is coming up in May, then we'll have a special sendoff dinner featuring genuine Ethiopian food. I'll introduce the entire team to you, with pictures and bios, at that time.
Monday, March 5
7:41 AM Stop the presses! This email from our son David just arrived from Alaba. Don't you tell me that the Lord Jesus doesn't perform miracles today!
My beloved Mamiye and Papiye, It is amazing!! Amazing!!! Amazing!!!! I have no words to tell you what our wonderful almighty God has done yesterday in Keranso #1 Church. Mama and Papa I wish if you would have seen it. Really when I have been watching how the people were Jumping and shouting with joy for the glory of God, I able to see a little picture of our worship before the throne of Our Lord in heaven. Mom, It was really a big celebration!!!!!!!!!!!!!The people came from different Churches. While they were coming, every body was singing shouting, and jumping with joy for what God has done in Keranso #1, were it was known place for the worship of demons. While the congregations were coming, those Muslims were standing on streets and watching these unusual marvelous things. More than 25 Muslims and many, many Muslim children came to attend the worship program. Mom, how can I define it for you?Really it is very unusual and unexpected thing there. More than 10 buses were used for transportation. The entire congregation said you and the church which is adopted Keranso #1 Church “May God bless you, May God bless you, may God bless you abundantly for your great effort to expand the kingdom of God in this very dark area.” Mom, I can not tell you how much I am happy to see that. The Joy of H Mom and Fatiya was extreme. We have taken two of our Church’s choir to sing there.By the way one of the Muslims immediately accepted Jesus as his personal savior in front of the congregation. Also the others are very much touched in what God. Mom, over all every things were very good. Thank you for praying about this day.
If you have ever prayed for the Keranzo church, if you have ever prayed for Hajji Mohammed and Fetiya, if you have ever prayed for the salvation of the dear, precious Muslims in Alaba -- I give you my deepest, deepest, deepest thanks. Above all, praise the name of Jesus forever!
7:28 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Smelling Ethiopia.
7:25 AM With Ethiopia in the news so much lately, here's a BBC report on tourism there (including a must-see slide show) that you may find interesting and informative. Just before my first visit to Ethiopia in 2004, John Stott had been there bird-watching!
7:20 AM Did you know that today is National Grader Appreciation Day? Ok, so I made that up. But I did want to introduce you to the grader I've had at school for the past 4 semesters. His name is Emmanuel Cakpo, and he hails from Benin, West Africa. (I usually select an international student to be my grader.) Emmanuel is just finishing his studies at the seminary. He is a joy to work with and I cannot possibly tell you how much I appreciate him. He is also a native francophone and has helped me tremendously with my awful French pronunciation. So a big "thank you" to Emmanuel on this his special day!
Here Emmanuel poses with his sons on a visit to Bradford Hall.
Sunday, March 4
3:12 PM This morning I attended my home church (Averett Baptist Church), not being scheduled to speak elsewhere. Nathan has started bringing fresh flowers to church from his fields. He does this pretty much from March to November every year. Aren't they beautiful? See what the Lord provides!
After the service we visited church members and friends at our local nursing home. One of our favorites is Julia Davis. Miss Davis has been knowing the Lord for a right long time and prays constantly for us there in the quietness of her room. She is a precious, precious sister in the Lord.
We visited others as well. Our routine is to just sit at the bedside and talk, then read some Scripture (usually a Psalm), and finally have prayer together. Sometimes we'll sing that person's favorite hymn. As everyone knows, visitors always leave more blessed than the ones they visited, and we are no exception.
Hope you're having a great Lord's Day too!
8:26 AM Tomorrow night is our third (of four) orientation meetings for our team going to Burji thus summer. I'll be continuing my series on Ethiopian culture and language. Here's one of the hardest utterances (if you can call it that) I will have to teach: the gasp. In the West a gasp is a sign of horror and surprise. In Ethiopia, it means "yes." There are two meanings for the very same sound! Strange but true.
7:57 AM Don't you love the earliest Christians? Without any sophistication whatsoever, and quite apart from citywide crusades, and in the face of innumerable barriers, they established churches wherever they went. In the tiny village of Keranzo, in Alaba, Ethiopia, this business of church planting has gone forth steadily now for several years. The little congregation there meets on the property of a former notorious opponent of the faith, Hajji Mohammed. (A Hajji is any Muslim who has made the trek to Mecca.) The Spirit of God converted him and filled him with new life, and now he blesses the same people he formerly persecuted. These believers have begun to live the life of discipleship, and in their circle of love their neighbors see a caring fellowship of followers of Jesus. The blood of many martyrs was its seed.
Today, March 4, 2007, is a very special day in the life of the Keranzo church as believers from all over Alaba gather there to celebrate the completion of their new meeting hall, a building paid for by their fellow believers in America who had a deep, practical, loving care for those poorer than themselves. How I wish I could be there to celebrate with them. May the Lord Jesus receive great praise today for what He has done in this village and throughout Alaba.
Fetiya, Becky, Mohammed, and I stand in front of the now completed meeting hall in the village of Keranzo.
Discussing our future plans with the various church elders and evangelists of Alaba. One of our two American teams will be visiting the Keranzo church this summer.
In Ethiopia all eating is done with one's fingers. Here Becky is showing great honor to Fetiya by feeding her injera b'wot.
We deeply love these people and feel completely unworthy to stand beside them in the yoke of Christian service.
Saturday, March 3
5:17 PM Do join me in welcoming A New Testament Student to the wonderful world of blogging.
4:56 PM Traveler and I want to remind everyone that Student Day is Saturday, April 28. Don't forget to mark your calendars now.
4:34 PM Great news! I survived my "week off." I have never worked so hard in my entire life. But what fun I've had putting up fencing with Nathan. I wouldn't miss it for the world. Still, I look forward to getting back to "work" next week!
The payoff? We're having Chinese food tonight for supper (with my secret ingredient, of course). Scarf city, here we come!
8:17 AM How do we win our neighbors for Christ? I'm not talking about our lost neighbors. I'm referring to our fellow church members who have lost all interest in attending the gatherings of our church. As we all know, the problem of inactive church membership is a huge problem. Even the secular press mocks our inflated membership statistics. What to do? I'll just suggest two things.
1) First, work on the health of your congregation. We do not get from the early church the idea of enforcing attendance codes. Instead, we find a church loving and caring for each other to the degree that people were sucked in as by a vortex. Time and again we find believers going out of their way to reach the "lost sheep" of their communities through selfless sacrifice of time, gifts, abilities, and even financial resources. Ask yourself, Why would anybody want to fellowship with us?
2) Second, develop a "redemptive" attitude toward people. Once you've thrown a redemptive switch, you will see people in a different light. Do they see the genuineness of your friendship? When they see you do they say, Only God could make someone so loving toward me? Perhaps the problem is that we've confused church membership with Body life. We've missed the reality of caring for our neighbors as a fundamental way of life. We're unwilling to do the hard work of cultivating relationships, and so we find it easy to become censorious. Maybe that hasn't happened to you, but it sure has happened to me.
The bottom line seems clear: It's imperative that we get to know our fellow church members. Often it is the loving, sensitive care of a Christian friend that draws a person back to the fold. I suggest you develop a spiritual inventory of those people who don't seem to be very involved in your church even though they are on the membership roster (unless they're deceased, of course!). That might clue you in on what you can do to make a positive contribution to their walk with God. It may be that the most powerful thing you can do is fix their barn roof or clean out their rain gutters. But please don't quote to them Heb. 10:24-25. At least not until you have personally gone out of your way to be a genuine Christian neighbor to them.
6:41 AM As you may know, we use poetry in the International Standard Version. As I have tried to argue, poetry is not prose. This thought first occurred to me when I read Busch's German biography of Karl Barth. In the early chapters the story was told of how young Barth loved to write poetry in his spare time, and the samples given in the book were really good poetry. Barth relied heavily on rhyme and metaphor. Out of curiosity I went to the library to see if a copy of the English translation of the bio was available. I wanted to see whether his poetry had been translated into English as poetry or as prose. To my great delight, I found the most wonderful English poetry, again utilizing rhyme, rhythm, and metaphor. Certain liberties were, of course, taken with Barth's original poetry, but this cannot be avoided in translation (Luther's Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott is a classic example; just compare the second line in German with the English translation). Thus when we came to the poetry of the New Testament we tried our best to render it in the ISV as poetry, not as prose. That said, I do think our poetry needs tweaking in places, and if you'd like to try your hand at it, just send me an email with your suggestions. Our committee on translation is due to meet again this summer in California to go through the entire New Testament. I welcome your thoughts.
Update: Wayne Leman continues his helpful comments on the ISV here. A Friend of Christ chimes in here and here.
Friday, March 2
5:00 PM Becky just put away the last of our beef into the freezer; I just finished washing out the last of our buckets. Our project began at 7:30 this morning., The Lord gave us a gorgeous day to work outdoors. I want to thank Kennon, Matthew, and Liz for their help. I'd say we put up at least 350 pounds of lean, hormone-free meat today. And to think -- we get to do it all over again in a week.
Update on the photo below: Nathan won. Matthew blamed it on being distracted by his ice cream. There were no rematches. Instead we all sat on the front porch watching the storm arrive.
Thursday, March 1
8:18 PM Well, I see I'm too late. Nate already snagged him for a game of chess. Knowing these guys, there will be several rematches before the night is through.
Nathan insisted that I take a pic of the eggs he brought up to the house today. No, that is nota duck egg.
7:10 PM As I type the house is astir with activity. Becky's cooking liver and onions for supper, Matthew Rondeau and Nathan are assembling our new meat grinder, the dogs are barking at something, and I am about to light us a good fire for the evening. I am so tired I can't even remember what I did today. O yeah, unloaded the trailer, put up two more rolls of fencing, switched out the trailers down in Oxford (every two days we bring home a new load of horse manure for our gardens), shoveled out the trailer (a line from the opening of the movie "Patton" comes to mind), went to South Boston to pick up 40 more metal fence posts (to use where there are no line trees), showered, cut potatoes for Becky, checked emails. Matthew is spending the night here to help us get an early start in the morning with our beef processing. I got out of the shower too late to see Caleb, Isaac, Micah, and their mommy. But Liz will be back tomorrow to help Becky wrap cuts of steak, loins, ribs, even filet mignon. Life is good.
I wonder if our brilliant house guest is up to a game of Scrabble tonight?
8:13 AM Today my heart is overwhelmed with emotion. I cannot help but weep at the thought that Mohammed is to be baptized today. Mohammed! Humanly speaking, had it not been for his murdering an 18 year-old Christian in Alaba, Becky and I would not be working there today. Becky told me this morning she remembers first hearing about the young man's death in an email from our son Nigussie. It read, "We lost one today." We thought, What does it mean to "lose one?" Now we know.
Can Christ bring gain out of loss? Strength out of weakness? Victory out of defeat? Is the way up down?
Are there cows in Texas?
My devotions this morning came from Philippians 1. Verse 7 says it all. The Philippians had become "partners with Paul" in his chains (imprisonment). Imagine! They lived 800 miles away from Rome yet they were right there in jail with Paul. Why? Because God had done a work in their lives. Paul and the Philippians were "sharers of God's grace." So there they were with Paul, sharing his joy and pain, as well as his "defense and confirmation of the Gospel." I cannot even begin to imagine how difficult it must be to be Christian in a Muslim prison. Mohammed and the other believers there must defend and confirm the truth of the Gospel, bearing the proverbial sword in one hand and the trowel in the other. How I wish I could be there to help. Yet I am there. I am united today with Mohammed and Kedir and Kasahun and the other believers who struggle even to stay alive in Alaba. I am one with them. One!
I have many interests in life. Many strong opinions about this and that. Many hobbies and activities. Many things to keep me busy. But life for me boils down to one thing: to know Him and to make Him known. Whatever else we might do, Becky and I are in the "Gospel business." And we are not in it alone. We are part of a team that includes a blind boy from Gondar and a murderer from Alaba, an abused wife from Kuke and a street girl from Addis, a student in Wake Forest and a farmer in Virginia who never finished high school. Together, we are but "slaves of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:1).
God does not exist for our personal gratification. He will not be used, no matter how many times we pray the prayer of Jabez. We exist to glorify Him by working to advance His kingdom throughout the earth. Period.
Is Gospel growth the one passion of your life? In your praying, in your giving, in your sending, even in your going? If it is, that's a life where the grace of God is at work.
8:07 AM Urgent Prayer Request: Here's a portion of an email Becky sent out yesterday. Please read it carefully, and then PRAY for the believers in Besheno. This Sunday is crucial.
Just last week our Lord gave us the victory in the land for the Zobechame church...a true miracle, that a Muslim would sell the land for the building of a church, and sell it at such a low price. This week we are celebrating the baptism of Mohammed the Murderer...yes! They are letting him out of prison for the baptism!
But the War is not done. The Evil One is still resisting the Kingdom of our Lord. This morning we received an email from David in Alaba regarding the Besheno church. If you remember, almost 2 years ago, the 8-yr-old daughter of Tesfaye was slaughtered because of Tesfaye's work in the church; he was gathering the Christians for worship in his home. Dave & I paid for the burial of his daughter. This happened our very first day in Alaba.
Two years before this event, the Muslims of the area had rounded up all the Christians in the town and had forced them to leave; they even set road blocks to keep them from returning. The government intervened, forcing the Muslims to allow the Christians to return to their homes. Tesfaye said that during this time, he hid in his home, while his family left.We met with Tesfaye in January (2 months ago), and Dave asked him "What are you doing to win the Muslims to Christ?" Do you know his answer? He said "We do 2 things...we live pure, holy lives, and we love them. Then we are ready to tell them about Jesus when they are drawn by Him." What a testimony! No gimmicks, no programs, no pat answers....just holy lives and love. Jesus Himself draws these precious Muslims to Himself. And as He draws, the believers speak the Gospel, the Good News of a sure salvation for their souls!!!
So what is the urgent prayer need? Well, we had gotten permission from the local government to build a church building in Besheno. Someone had donated land; the title to the land had been changed to the church, and funds for the building had been donated by Family Of Faith church in Ohio. Suddenly, the local government has changed its mind. Obviously, the Muslims have gotten the upper hand in the powers of local government.
The church has erected a small thatched hut on the property, but the believers have not yet met there. THIS SUNDAY THEY WILL MEET FOR THE FIRST TIMEon this property, in this hut. Please pray for courage, for peace, for spiritual strength, for grace, for wisdom.....and pray that the glory of God will be revealed in a strong, supernatural way, both to the Christians meeting and also to the Muslims watching!
Because the hut is thatch-roof, it is easily burned. We need to erect a stronger tin-roofed building. Pray also for the permission to be granted (again) to build this building.
I could tell you story after story of when the Muslims have threatened extermination of all the Christians in Alaba...yet God intervened in such a supernatural way that the Muslims were stopped dead in their tracts as they saw the glory of God. I am asking our Lord to do this again in the Besheno district. Besheno Town is the main town in the northern Alaba region; it is the gateway to this area. There are no churches whatsoever in this region, so a strong church in Besheno is strategic to the whole area. Pray for God to open the door to this region, which is completely unreached and is dying in the bondage of Islam and animism.