Monday, April 30
7:33 PM I've been fighting a head cold all day. Coughing, sneezing, chest congestion -- you know the routine. Yesterday I thought I had lost my voice, and I could barely talk in the morning. Thankfully my vocal cords had sufficiently recovered before Mel's ordination service. So my day has been un-normal in that I had planned to work with Nathan on the new hay barn and instead have been reading (and sleeping) all day. Meanwhile, Becky spent a good 10 hours on the computer today writing emails and planning for this and that, all in preparation for our next trip to Ethiopia, which begins in exactly 30 days. Hard to believe it's sneaking up on us that quickly. And Nathan? He tried out our new haybine today and it worked beautifully. He cut a few of our smaller fields and has already sold the hay (the buyer will pick up the bales in the field). Way to go, Nate. You're a good farmer and a good businessman.
By the way, everywhere I go in the house, guess who goes with me? You guessed it. "As faithful as a dog" is more than an old saying around here. They seem to know daddy's a bit under the weather.
Lord willing, I'll be back in the saddle tomorrow. Full speed ahead!
7:46 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Living Church.
Sunday, April 29
7:52 AM Some people claim that teaching is the world's greatest profession. I'm not sure I agree. But it probably comes close. If my bias is showing, it's partly because I get to teach the greatest students on Planet Earth bar none, many of whom happened to saunter by our humble abode yesterday for our semiannual student fellowship. Actually, a good number of my students weren't able to make it for various reasons (when we lived in Carolina we would average 150 on a day like this; here in Virginia, which is much further away, the average is about 75), and it is primarily for their benefit that I post a few pix of yesterday's activities. The day began with a long walk on the farm (courtesy of the gentleman farmer, Nathan) and its dénouement was undoubtedly the Great Greek Scrabble Game, which was won by one very smart guy (I'll let you guess who he is). I have to acknowledge that never has food had greater variety or better taste than the fare we feasted on yesterday (including kimchi, which I am certain will be featured in heaven). By the way, you really have to keep on your toes with these young people because they are as sharp as nails. Though it may surprise you, I have a great deal of respect for students who are willing to question the status quo on just about any subject, and my pupils seem to be especially gifted at doing this, with admirable humility I might add. They love to peel the onion and ask questions about all the fundamentals. I love it. One thing's for sure: the day was fabulous, and we all have the Lord Jesus to thank for that -- plus my lovely wife Becky Lynn, whose gracious hospitality is unmatched. Yesterday's student fellowship capped off what for me has been a fantastic school year. Can you imagine another career where you get to have this much fun?
In lieu of a full-blown description of all the festivities, I'll have to let these pictures suffice. Have a great Lord's Day, and Mel and Heather, I'll see you tonight for the ordination service.
Friday, April 27
5:38 PM Alan Knox has started yet another interesting discussion, this time about the word "missional" and whether it is an improvement over "missionary." (Alan has an incredible talent of asking just the right questions, doesn't he?) My thoughts: It's a good idea to be constantly rethinking our terminology and nomenclature when it comes to the church. Discussing what we mean by the words we use is a healthy thing. Speaking personally, I like words ending in the suffix -al because they have an active flavor to them (unlike "titles" such as elder, pastor, missionary, etc.). I was in a church recentlywhere I needed to invite all the "deacons" to step forward to receive a gift from their Ethiopian brothers and sisters. That got me thinking: what if I had used the term "spiritual leaders" instead? Who would have stepped forward? I should hope the deacons, for that's that what they are, or supposed to be -- spiritual leaders. Then there's the term "Christian" itself. Have you ever noticed how seldom the New Testament mentions the word? You and I use it all the time (the "Christian" faith, a "Christian" day school, etc.), but the word occurs only 3 times in the whole Bible. In Ethiopia the term is used far less frequently to describe born-again Christians, as the word "Christian" can also be used for religious people who belong to the Orthodox Church. Ethiopian evangelicals prefer the term "believer." Then how about the word "Christianity"? Is "Christianality" an improvement? And on and on it goes. So let the discussion begin, and let it be healthy, beneficial, and stimulating.
4:15 PM We have a very close friend who is preaching "in view of a call" this Sunday. (He knows who he is.) He has been like a son to us and we love him dearly. Whatever happens, we want him to know of our constant love and prayers on his behalf. A. W. Pink once said, "The wind is irresponsible; that is to say, it is sovereign in its action." In the same way, the Spirit moves like a mighty wind according to God's sovereign and perfect will, and in the end none of us can ever understand how or why He does. His work is something that man can neither control nor organize. So, as God leads you and your precious family along, young man, may you be filled with an overwhelming sense of God's love and care, and of ours.
2:57 PM A couple of friends sent me a link to this incredible dressage performance:
My own beloved Cody could do many of the intricate moves shown here, including the canter depart from the halt, the canter pirouette, and side passing (these are all seen at the very beginning of the clip). What makes dressage so wonderful is that it always strives for a perfect partnership between horse and rider. The rider provides the brain power, while the horse provides the motive power. But the rider never uses force to get his way. These perfect movements of the horse were achieved only after the most painstaking practice -- with a great deal of patience exercised by both horse and rider. To me it is a wonderful picture of the partnership that Christ seeks with those who claim to be "co-yoked" with Him in service. And the reward is something much greater than the ephemeral praise of the crowds.
11:44 AM Great news! Fasil Arega, one of our Ethiopian sons, has completed his masters degree at the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology and will be graduating next month. His thesis was on Jesus' transfiguration. Fasil currently teaches New Testament and Greek at the Evangelical Theological College in Addis Ababa and served as my indispensable assistant when I taught beginning Greek there two summers ago. Heartiest congratulations from Mama and Papa, Fasil!
Below from left: Our sons Nigussie, Fasil, and David.
11:26 AM Addis Ababa University students have begun protesting, and things have turned violent. Never a dull moment in Ethiopia's capital. But the news is not all bad from Addis.
10:37 AM The weather forecast for tomorrow's Student Day? Plenty of sunshine, and a high of 76. Already the rain has passed and the sun is smiling. See you tomorrow!
8:31 AM Yesterday marked the 21st anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster in the Ukraine. The Ukraine seems to be a popular destination for missions trips these days. I've just accepted an invitation to teach there this summer for a week. What made the invite so appealing to me is that I will be mentoring a select group of pastors in an intensive course in "How to Study the Bible." Nothing dearer to my heart. Our textbook will be the Russian edition of my Using New Testament Greek in Ministry. More details later.
8:24 AM Every once in a while the Lord hits my blindside. When Becky and I spoke at Messiah Baptist Church a few Sundays ago, a member of that congregation was so gracious to give us a box of Hawaiian Host chocolate-covered macadamia nuts. I mean, that's the real deal. Nothing better tasting in the world. I had not eaten any in years. I can't even find them for sale anywhere. But she had purchased a box on a trip to Hawaii and, knowing my background, offered them to us. What kindness! Now, why is this so special to me? Let me take you back 33 years to the cafeteria line at Biola College in Southern California. It was supper time, and I had just gotten a box of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts from my mother in Hawaii. I was standing in line with my blind Brazilian roommate when I noticed a young lady step in line behind us. Out of the clear blue I offered her a nut, and she accepted it! She tells me it was at that exact moment she KNEW I would become her husband. I eventually figured it out too -- 2 years and 8 months later. I've often thought, do I owe my marriage to the most beautiful and grace-filled woman in the world to a box of nuts? Makes one think about life's unpredictable twists and turns.
8:15 AM A few years ago, just after we had moved to Southside Virginia, someone called me a redneck for the first time. I took it as a compliment. And it's true. I am one. Need proof?
8:03 AM Please help us give a warm Rosewood Farm welcome to our latest calves. We bought them from a dairy farmer in Carolina.
7:55 AM A couple of years ago I wrote a little piece called Chicken Love. Our family's very first pets (before our horses, goats, dogs even) were our chickens. I still love them. And here's my favorite. Brownie is our oldest hen. We had her long before we moved to Virginia. Somehow she has survived the foxes and hunting dogs. Whenever I go near the coop she's the first to greet me, expecting to be fed from my hand. When we bought her, her beak had been cut by the feed store owners to keep her from pecking the other hens. And so she has needed a bit more TLC than the other chickens when it comes to feeding time -- it's simply harder for her to hunt and scratch. She is one special lady, let me tell you. Too old to lay, but not too old to say hi to an old clunker like me.
Thursday, April 26
9:39 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Ride That Horse!
9:34 AM Over at the Better Bibles Blog, Wayne Leman asks a very interesting question about the rendering "Jesus Christ the righteous" in 1 John 2:1. My question: Could the absence of the article with "righteous" (dikaion) lend support to a qualitative rendering (cf. the ISV): "one who is righteous"? Or perhaps the adjective dikaion belongs with the noun parakleton("we have a righteous advocate in the very presence of the Father, Jesus Christ") but was separated from it for emphasis. Such conundrums are what make exegesis so much fun.
9:30 AM I received this notice from Sudie Early, one of our Alaba team members:
Gospel Sing Benefit at Tabernacle Baptist Church, South Hill, VA
Saturday, April 28, 7- 8:30 PM
The following is a line up of the Singers scheduled for the evening:
7:05 PM — The Blackridge Boys
7:20 PM — Sanford Memorial Baptist Church Choir
7:35 PM — Cassie Martin
7:45 PM — Anna Ruth Green
7:55 PM — Tabernacle Youth Choir
8:05 PM — Glory Land Quartet
8:20 PM — Joyful Noise
8:30 PM — Pie Dessert for Everyone…Enjoy, God Bless and Thanks!
9:23 AM Thousands are asking: How's the new hay barn coming? Quite nicely, actually, with the help of the Austin clan, who just paid us a long visit. Everyone had his own job. Here John "helps" Nathan raise a cedar post. Shades of Iwo Jima.
Jacob hard at work (cough, cough).
Julia the scholarette asking, "Don't you know who van Til is?"
Jessica, cook extraordinaire.
Joyful Joy preparing bottles for the calves over at Nathan's farmhouse.
Joshua lookin' good after a day's work.
Julie is ... well, what is Julie doing?
Many thanks, Austins, for your much laborious periphrasis. Ya'll come back agin, you heah?
Wednesday, April 25
5:38 PM Today was Secretary’s Day. I hope you remembered.
5:34 PM Charleston Southern University is seeking someone to chair its religion department.
5:30 PM I just received a pleasant email from a pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Temple in Hagerstown. Man, does this church love missions.
5:26 PM The fighting in Somalia has now spilled over into Ethiopia, where several foreign nationals have been murdered. This follows 7 straight days of fighting between Ethiopian troops backing the interim government and insurgents from the city’s dominant Hawiye clan. Years ago, in the very same region, an Ethiopian believer was killed for his faith by the enemies of Christianity. As the Master, so must the servant be. How much trouble have we had that we wouldn’t have had if we hadn’t been a Christian?
5:20 PM Greek students! Here’s the Cotton Patch version of 1 John (“First Jack”) 1:5-10:
And here is the announcement which we have heard from him and are relaying to you: "God is light and there isn’t a single speck of darkness in him." If we say that we are in partnership with him and keep on gadding about in the dark, we’re just plain lying and not acting on the truth. But if we keep moving in the light, as he himself is in the light, we are in partnership with one another, and the sacrifice of his son Jesus Christ is ridding us of every sin. If we say, "We don’t have a sin," we're kidding ourselves and are not truthful. If we honestly face up to our sins, he is so fair and straight that he will put our sins behind him and will rid us of every bad habit. If we keep saying, "We’ve never done anything wrong," we make a liar out of him, and his idea is not rooted in us.
Isn't that great?
5:12 PM From Hammer and Nails come these words of wisdom:
It seems that those who agree on the basics of the gospel message should not be referred to as heretics. For those who would hold to a common creed, such as the Nicene Creed, we can all agree that we serve the same Christ, love the Lord, and will all be together in heaven with our triune God one day.
This is one reason I keep warbling about my conviction that the one thing that can unify us is the Gospel. Though I understand the need to have biblical convictions about everything we do, I am not an apologist for homeschooling, or for age-integration, or for elder-led congregationalism, or for constitutional government. I heartily agree with all of these positions, but I would like to be known for one thing only: that I am an apologist for the Gospel. Amen, Eric, and do keep on reminding us to focus on the basics.
5:03 PM O, the perils of ambiguity. Students, take note, because the New Testament also contains numerous examples of ambiguity that can only be disambiguated by the context. This is because most lexemes (and many syntagmemes as well) are polysemous – they can have any number of possible meanings, though usually only one meaning will be intended in any given passage. If you don’t believe me, check out the Greek of John 1:9!
Tuesday, April 24
6:42 AM The trip up north was fantastic. Our drive there took us through the mountains of West Virginia and into the eastern portion of Ohio almost to Lake Erie. The weather could not have been better for driving and sightseeing. Daytime highs averaged 75. On Saturday night we were privileged to share the work with a group of homeschooling families in a borrowed church building.
The next morning we met with the Family of Faith Church, a group of about 8 families whom the Lord has led to support the Besheno church in northern Alaba. Their fellowship meets in a barn on this farm.
I taught from the Word, then Becky shared slides and stories about the Lord's work among the severely persecuted believers in Alaba.
Afterwards we shared the Lord's Supper, beginning with "Ambasha," an Ethiopian bread that Becky had prepared. After the bread we all partook of a full meal, then gathered again for the "cup." It was a thoroughly biblical and blessed experience.
Before we left, the church "blessed" their brothers and sisters in Besheno by pointing towards Alaba and calling out 3 times "God bless you." This is a widely-practiced custom in Ethiopia.
Here Pastor Jeff holds a plaque given to the Family of Faith congregation by their sister church in Alaba. Hand-carved by one of the Alaba church elders, it says "God is love" in Amharic.
The drive home took us through western Pennsylvania and Maryland. I hadn't traveled on the Pennsylvania Turnpike since I was 12. Becky and I had a delightful lunch in historic Sharpsburg, MD. Across the street from the little diner we ate in was the building in which General Lee had a council of war just before the great battle began. It is now used as an apartment building.
We stopped at the visitor center just long enough to take a couple of photos, including this one of the famous Dunker Church. Later this year I hope to return to Sharpsburg to do research on my great-great grandfather, J. H. Miller, whose farm was situated on Antietam Creek. Was D. R. Miller (of the "Cornfield" fame) a relative of his?
The Piper Farm House (below) served as the headquarters of General Longstreet during the battle. For years it also served as a bed and breakfast. Becky and I stayed there in 1996 when we flew to the east coast from California to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. That trip has a very special place on the mantelpiece of my mind.
We finally arrived home at 8:00 pm having driven 1,289 miles in 4 days. This was the sight that greeted us when we returned to "our fair city" of Clarkesville, VA.
As we drove along, the race was on for Becky to complete the embroidery work for the Ethiopian bell choir capes we're taking with us in May. She had 20 of them to do on the trip. She finished the last one about a half hour before we arrived home.
I want to express my heartfelt thanks to the entire Family of Faith church for their warm hospitality and especially for their love for Ethiopia. They presented to the Besheno church two jugs of locally-made Maple Syrup that we will pass on to them when we return to Alaba this summer. Above all, I thank the Lord Jesus for saving a soul like mine. As Jesus put it one day to His disciples when they had just completed service in His name, "Instead, rejoice that your names are written in heaven." Salvation is an amazing work that none of us can undertake. It is all of God. May I never get so caught up in the work of the ministry that I lose the sheer wonder of being part of the family of God by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. All else pales in significance.
Thursday, April 19
5:32 PM Let's see... which book to take on the trip? Easy. My all-time favorite work of fiction:The Hound of the Baskervilles. In fact, I started rereading it last evening while winding down after a grueling day at work. Already I've run across several of my favorite lines [Holmes to Watson]: "It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but you are a conductor of light. Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it." Hmm, I know a few people who would describe my own scholarship in similar terms. Then there's this [again, Holmes to Watson]: "When I said that you stimulated me I meant, to be frank, that in noting your fallacies I was occasionally guided towards the truth." Bingo! If that isn't me! Pure delight, I tell you, pure delight.
4:39 PM Almost forgot. I've got a very special friend at Meadowview Nursing Home. His name is Frank, and he has cerebral palsy. I visited him on Sunday when we sang at the home. Becky snapped this photo. A month ago Frank lost his roommate. They had been together for 10 years. Frank misses Larry, and so do I. Frank is still grieving, but he says he's coping. Our prayers can help. God bless you, Frankie. I love you man.
3:50 PM News and notes: Becky is hot and heavy into her preparations for this weekend. The slides have come together real well. She's also transcribed the testimonies of two believers from the town of Besheno, in the north of Alaba, where the persecution is serve. What the Lord Jesus has done in their lives! Amazing! Me? I've been spiffying up the house for our weekend guests.... I'm glad to report that Miss Blackie (our newborn calf) is doing fine. The next month or so is critical.... Right now Becky and Nathan have gone to Oxford to swap out the trailers and stop by Wal-Mart for a few last-minute trip items. My job is to get food preparations underway for tonight's supper. On the menu? Farm fresh chicken.... I've got my eye on several historic stops we might want to make on our trip, including Jacksons Mill, where the great Stonewall grew up. I'd also like to see the Baptist church in Weston, WV, where Jackson attended before he became a Presbyterian. So much history... so little time!
7:55 AM Nathan kept himself very busy while I was attending our conference last weekend. He completed the cross-fencing of a large 30-acre section of the farm. How he accomplished this Herculean task without his klutzy assistant to help him is truly mind-boggling.
The fence is located in what we call the "valley," a beautiful section of the property that has a live creek running through it.
With the cross-fencing up, we can now let the cattle graze in the rich pasture found here.
The hill in the background is where we want to build a log cabin for retreatants. We're thinking of calling it the "Hermitage," and it will allow visitors a great deal of seclusion and quiet.
One thing's for sure: the Lord has been very gracious to us. Much more than we deserve. Our one desire is to use every square inch of the farm for His glory and in His service.
7:17 AM Congratulations to my Ph.D. student Mel Winstead for publishing not 1, not 2, but 4 book reviews in the latest issue of Faith and Mission. Mel is also to be ordained later this month. I couldn’t be more proud of you, Mel.
7:12 AM A big “thank you” to all those who wrote to say “thank you” for the conference we had on campus last week. I realize it takes time and effort to express one’s appreciation. In fact, I guess the whole Christian life is to be one big “thank you” to God. There are many ways to thank Him, but sharing the Good News with those who need it is a pretty accurate gauge, don’t you think? This old world is our proving ground. And what better place to show God our gratitude? By the way, whatever you think about the last twelve verses of Mark, we can all believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ and we can all trust the Christ of the Gospel. The Good News is built upon solid historical fact, but “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17). If Mark 16:9-20 is the Word of God, it makes some pretty startling claims, not least that the church has one business and only one: preaching the Gospel to the whole creation. The same is true for Matt. 28:19-20. So, while we discuss and debate this and that text, there is no doubt about the Gospel and its Christ. And it is He who demands that we translate God’s Word into living epistles known and read by all men, furnishing the world with its most-read Bible. That’s really what “scholarship” is all about – or should be.
7:05 AM Right now Becky and I are getting ready to drive to Ohio to speak at a church near Lake Erie on Saturday night and Sunday morning. We leave tomorrow and arrive home next Monday, Lord willing. Our trip will take us through historic White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, where Robert E. Lee spent his summers after the war, and also where his great horseTraveller was born. Lee is one of my Christian heroes, and I named one of my horses after his steed. I can just see the retired general and now college president making the 60 mile trek from Lexington to the springs on horseback. It should go more quickly for us by car. I estimate that the entire round trip to Ohio will involve 1,200 miles of driving.
Now, why are we going? Simply to meet with a church that has partnered with us in taking the Gospel to Ethiopia (Phil. 1:5). We share with these precious believers not only a gift (salvation) but a task (taking the Gospel to the whole world). We owe a common debt to God’s amazing grace and a common commitment to sharing that grace with others. If Christianity is anything, it is a partnership in the Gospel. When we are really one in Christ, the Gospel becomes the passion of our lives, because Jesus is the inspiration of our lives. Christ expects unity. He expects cooperation. Not for personal prestige. Not for empty glory. We do not touch the glory. It all belongs to Him. We reflect it, though, as we focus the eyes of others on Jesus. It is to me a very touching and humbling thing to see churches and families and marriages putting the Gospel first. There can be no loyalty to one another without loyalty to Jesus; but there also can be no loyalty to Jesus without loyalty to each other. Amen?
6:52 AM This note from China blessed my heart:
Dear Professor,Greetings! My name is ____. I live in Beijing, China, and I am just writing you to thank you for writing the book, "Learn to Read New Testament Greek." It is helping me a lot. I highly appreciate your inclusion of linguistics in the instruction of elementary level Greek. Someday, God willing, I hope to use my knowledge to translate the New Testament into one of the minority languages here. I just want you to know that this missionary finds your work a blessing.
Wow! I’d really like to visit China someday, and maybe preach or teach there short term. Korea is the closest I’ve ever gotten.
6:45 AM In exactly six weeks we leave for Africa. Little things take forever in Ethiopia, so we are trying to tie up the loose ends now. Currently each team is finalizing their ministry preparations – from puppets, to bells, to sermons, even to a commencement speech. No one on the team except for Becky and I have been to Ethiopia, some have never been out the country, and one or two have never flown on an airplane before. But all are eager to begin the trip. They’re not the only ones. We received a great email from our son David yesterday. Here’s a portion of it:
My Mamiye &Papiye, We are eager to see you. The people of Alaba began to count the day to see you. Mamy, Mamiye,& Papa, Papiye, you are greatly loved !!!!!! Your son, David.
We too yearn to see the people of Alaba. There is still much preparation to be done. But because of the Lord’s great sovereignty we need not worry about a thing. We can enter every day of our spiritual lives with genuine optimism, a cheerful heart, and confidence that the church will emerge victorious.
6:37 AM My friend from Talbot, J. P. Moreland, is on campus for the Carver-Barnes lectureship. His lecture yesterday was extremely interesting and provocative. Corrie ten Boon once said, “The first step on the way to victory is to recognize the enemy.” If you would like to know more about the opposition faced by the Christian soldier, I believe you’ll find J. P.’s talks enlightening and helpful. They can be accessed here. By the way, J. P. also blogs.
6:30 AM I received a pleasant email from a faculty colleague who teaches in another institution. He had heard me mention my views on the authorship of Hebrews over the weekend, and especially how Origen continues to be misquoted. He had forgotten to pick up a copy of my essay on Origen and Hebrews, so I sent him the hyperlink. If you’d like to read it, simply click here.
Tuesday, April 17
6:54 AM Christy of Until My Last Breath reports on her trip to Wake Forest for the Last Twelve Verses of Mark conference. Also, Lew Ayotte offers his assessment of the speakers' views.
6:50 AM Students (and your families), don't forget there are only two weeks to go before our Student Day. Place: Rosewood Farm. Date: April 28. Time: 10:00 - 5:00. Shiloh and Sheba can hardly wait to see you!
Ditto for Traveler.
6:45 AM In the latest issue of New Testament Studies (vol. 53, pp. 225-241), John Barclay makes several observations about the concept of age in early Christianity, including:
1) The New Testament contains a single polarity between "older" and "younger."
2) These two terms included the entire congregation (sans the children of course). Thus you were either a younger person or an older person.
3) In New Testament times the number of people living beyond the age of 60 was low. 60 percent of the population was under 30, 40 percent over.
4) The transition to "youth" was physiological (puberty).
5) There are no "middle aged" people in the New Testament. After childhood, people were either "young" or "old."
6) When did one become "old"? Xenophon hints at the answer (Mem. 1.2.35) when he says that youth are people not yet wise enough to serve in the Council (boule), i.e., they are under the age of 30.
7) In New Testament ethics, youth always defers to age. Older men are to be sober, serious, and moderate (Tit. 2:1-5). They are to avoid "youthful passions" (2 Tim. 2:22).
8) Barclay writes that "the family metaphor is significant: it indicates that in a community which thinks of itself as 'the household of God' (1 Tim 3.15), the patterns of respect for the older generation in the family are likely to be replicated in social relations within the church" (p. 237).
9) Timothy did not circumvent the process of age qualification, as his youthful authority was authenticated by the council of elders (1 Tim. 4:12, 14).
This excellent essay (titled "There is Neither Old Nor Young? Early Christianity and Ancient Ideologies of Age") deserves to be read by anyone interested in New Testament ecclesiology. It confirms what I have tried to argue in my book The Myth of Adolescence, namely that there are three basic stages of life according to the New Testament: childhood, young adulthood, and senior adulthood (see 1 John 2:12-14) -- which is one reason why Jesus had to wait until He was 30 to begin His public ministry (Luke 3:23). It also raises some very important questions about the placing of men into the role of elder/pastor prior to gaining significant life experience. The word "elder" itself seems to be age specific. If so, aren't there ramifications for the local church?
Monday, April 16
1:36 PM Farm update:
1) Just enjoyed a bowl of hot and spicy soup Becky put together. Delicious. Made with farm fresh sausage.
2) This morning we adopted from a neighboring farmer "Miss Blackie," who when born yesterday lost her mother. We're feeding her colostrum replacement. I sure hope and pray she makes it....
3) Today Nathan and I began a long-term farm project. We're constructing a new hay barn. We need it for our main crop here at Rosewood Farm: high-quality hay. It will be a gambrel design with two side sheds for equipment storage. Here's a "before" look at the site (located just to the north of our infamous chicken mansion):
The ground today was ideal for working. Never have post holes been dug with greater ease, thanks to our handy auger (24 holes in 1 hour):
As posts we'll use cedars from our farm. Here's a stack Nathan's been collecting:
For rafters we'll use pine poles we've cut. Siding will be lumber we've scavenged, and for the roof salvaged tin. We'll keep you informed of our progress. The weather today is perfect for working outdoors, though it is very windy (gusts up to 40 mph).
Meanwhile, Nathan tells me he just read that the average age of farmers in Virginia is 62. Maybe there's hope for me yet.
7:25 AM My heartiest thanks again to all those who attended the conference on the last twelve verses of Mark and to the many attendees who blogged about their experience. If there's one impression that keeps popping up it is this: perspective is everything and complete objectivity an impossibility. The conference certainly reminded everyone of that great truth. My own perspective has been shaped by 4 forces: my upbringing in a conservative (but by no means fundamentalist) Baptist church in Hawaii; my formal education at an inerrantist college and seminary; my exposure to scholarship at its highest level during my studies in Basel; and perhaps most importantly my own private study of the Scriptures in the original languages. The rigors of academic training at the University of Basel taught me how to do independent research and writing, while my conservative background helped me to maintain a solid commitment to the inspiration, authority, and inerrancy of Scripture throughout my academic career. I appreciate both the conservative and non-conservative factions of New Testament scholarship while at the same time holding a healthy appreciation of views along the entire theological spectrum. Listening to Francis Schaeffer in Switzerland helped me understand that faith and reason could be complementary rather than adversarial. My sojourn in Europe taught me to read widely and to both respect and question the opinions of others. Being reformed in my theology I see total depravity in all quarters of scholarship, even evangelicalism. I agree with Moody that this world is a wrecked vessel, and it's our job to get as many into the lifeboat as possible. Our main problem, in other words, is not intellectual but spiritual, and therefore the ultimate answer is individual conversion. I trust all this came out in my brief talk at the symposium. So then, a hearty "thank you and God bless you" to all who have been prodded into greater allegiance to the Gospel as a result of attending the conference. I think we'll need to have another one very soon.
Below: four of my students chatting during the breakfast on Saturday.
Sunday, April 15
7:55 AM Young pastor, you must read this essay.
7:45 AM Are you honoring your pastor/elder? And not just by putting money in the offering plate so that he can be paid? Here's a good discussion of the whole issue, but my point is this: today, this very day, you can say something or do something loving and honoring for your pastor/elder. Something personal. Something perhaps even tangible. I don't know about you, but I definitely want to work harder on doing this consistently. Thanks, Theron, for reminding me of its importance this morning.
7:30 AM Josh McManaway adds his thoughts about the New Testament conference held this weekend. Josh, it was a great pleasure to see you again. Thank you for sharing with us your first-hand impressions.
7:22 AM Sunday shout out to Mr. Jimmy Cockman of Charlotte, NC, who now enters the dissertation phase of his Ph.D. program having passed his orals on Friday. Drs. Beck and Lanier joined me as persecutors-in-chief. Congratulations on reaching this wonderful milestone, Jimmy, and may the Lord bless you as you begin your research and writing.
7:18 AM I recently had a conversation with a faculty colleague about the great Christ-hymn in 1 Tim. 3:16. We agreed that it should be translated into English as poetry, not prose, since poetry serves as an important mnemonic device. The ISV rendering is an attempt to do just that, though I am always open to suggested improvements to any of the poetry you find in our translation.
In flesh was he revealed to sight,
Kept righteous by the Spirit’s might,
Adored by angels singing.
To nations was he manifest,
Believing souls found peace and rest,
Our Lord in heaven reigning!
7:15 AM Here’s an excellent essay on the importance of learning the “heart language” of the people to whom you minister on the mission field. I’ve often asked myself, “Why, Lord, did you appoint us to work among the Amharic speaking people of Ethiopia? It would have been a lot easier for me had I served You in a country that spoke German or French or Spanish!”Amharic – talk about one difficult language, especially for a guy who’s 54 years old and not getting any younger. You’ve got to start with the alphabet, which is daunting enough. No, learning Amharic isn’t my cup of shai, though I do know a few essential words and phrases.
7:10 AM In my chapel message on Thursday I mentioned our retreat ministry here at the farm, a wonderful, quiet, and secluded place to put body and soul back together again and to reconnect with the Lord. After my message, a visitor from Houston, TX, mentioned that his home congregation had a similar ministry, and I wanted to let you know about it. It’s the Restoration Ministry of Sagemont Church, and perhaps some of you may want to consider taking advantage of it. Sagemont is a very missions-minded church, as this link will show. God bless you dear folk at Sagemont for all you are doing for Christ, for the kingdom, and for the hurting and hopeless of this world. You are a great example to the rest of us.
Saturday, April 14
7:38 PM I've returned home from Wake Forest, weary but full of praise to God for the New Testament conference that just ended. The event was live-blogged by Lew Ayotte and Alan Knox, whose detailed reports can be found here and here. Judging from the comments of those who attended, the event was a smashing success. I want to thank all those who made it the wonderful meeting it was, including President Danny Akin for his enthusiastic support of the conference from the day I first proposed it to him over a year ago; Dr. David Nelson and Dr. David Beck for doing a great job of emceeing; Mr. Make Hawley for handling the sound so ably; Mr. Jason Hall for writing a report on the event for Baptist Press; Mr. Dennis Darville and his fine staff for organizing the conference logistics; and especially the other conference speakers, my good friends Dan Wallace, Maurice Robinson, Keith Elliott, and Darrell Bock:
Dan Wallace talks to one of my Ph.D. students during the continental breakfast on Saturday morning.
Maurice Robinson with some of his colleagues from sister institutions, including Liberty University.
Keith Elliott talks with one of my Greek students.
Darrell Bock working the crowd.
The Eitel Auditorium was the perfect venue for the event.
Dan Wallace during his presentation.
Maurice Robinson speaks to an enthusiastic audience.
Keith Elliott is always an entertaining speaker.
Yours truly gave the final main paper.
Darrell Bock giving his response.
The program concluded with a 1-hour question and answer session.
Bloggers that attended the event included (from left to right) Lew, Christy, Steve, Maël,Theron, and Alan.
Jim Baird and Ray Clendenen from Broadman and Holman Academic met with me to discuss the possible publication of the papers.
Nice serendipity: On the drive home I listened to my favorite opera on the classical music station: Turandot. Brought back lots of happy memories of when Becky and I attended an outdoor performance of Turandot in Rome several years ago. All in all, a very good two days. God is good.
Friday, April 13
6:25 AM Almost forgot. A big Friday shout out and thank you to Dr. Nannette Godwin of the seminary's organ faculty. Some 8 years ago she took Nathan under her wings and tutored him, even allowing him to practice on the seminary's magisterial pipe organ. How did Nathan get involved in music in the first place? We required him to take 3 years of piano lessons while growing up. After the 3 years were over he could decide whether he wanted to continue, stop, or switch to a different instrument. He decided to continue with the keyboard. God had placed in his soul a musical vein of pure gold, and Mrs. Godwin helped to refine it. So thank you, Nannette. As for me, I can't say that I'm "proud" of Nathan, because I had nothing to do with it. But I am indeed very "well-pleased" (Mark 1:11).
6:18 AM Today promises to be another whirlwind. I'm giving two oral exams, each lasting 2-3 hours, then our New Testament conference kicks off this evening with Dan Wallace in lane one, Maurice Robinson in lane 2, and Keith Elliott in lane 3. Even now I can hear them revving up their powerful race cars. (Saturday morning, Dr. Black will join them in lane 4. Even now I can hear the putt-putts of his motor scooter.) Last time I saw Keith was at the Montréal SNTS meeting, when he did the "New Testament shuffle" aboard the dinner cruise. (Ask him what I'm talking about.) Keith insists that the conference program is chiastically arranged, and that this has significance for the outcome of the debate. We'll see. Keith also, to my everlasting disappointment, refused to grow any facial hair for the meeting. Always the nonconformist, he. Well, enough of this inane ESPN pre-race hype. Let the competition begin. Gentlemen, start your engines!
6:13 AM I want to thank all of you who sent along such kind remarks after my chapel message yesterday. There is not a day that goes by that I do not put my nose to the carpet and thank God Almighty for allowing me to teach the greatest students in the greatest seminary on earth, bar none. Ditto for my wonderful colleagues. Thanks also to all of you who stopped by our missions table after the service to talk with Becky and me about Ethiopia and missions in general. If you were there, I'm sure you would agree that the music in chapel yesterday was simply outstanding. Nathan started it off with an organ prelude, Bach style.
He really pulled out all the stops. I must say that the dissonant penultimate chord was a dazzler! Then John Davis and the Faithful Men led us in both contemporary and traditional hymnody that filled the chapel with exuberant song. Afterwards I took Becky and Nathan out to the Olive Garden to celebrate the day as well as a signal event in our farm life: the completion of the fencing around our property. Yes, you heard me right. The "completion." All 123 acres of it. I still can't believe it's done. Or that I'm alive to tell you about it.
By the way, if you'd like to listen to any of our SEBTS chapel messages, simply go theseminary website and click on "Chapel." Tip: Tuesday's message by Ned Mathews on God's amazing grace was phenomenal.
Thursday, April 12
6:35 AM Our Sheltie Sheba is such a big clown. She loves to chase anything that moves. But it’s our Hardy trailer that really drives her crazy. She jumps and jumps and almost leaps over the fence in an attempt to attack the poor thing. There’s never a dull moment in Sheltieville. Maybe it’s because in their natural setting Shelties were made to herd. They also love lots of attention and snuggling. Great socialites too.
Don't you love dogs?
6:30 AM Check out the Wikipedia article about Aramaic primacy – the view that the New Testament was originally written, not in Greek, but in Aramaic. I don’t hold to this view of Gospel origins, but I do believe that the Gospels have an important Semitic substratum. This is why I read my Hebrew New Testament so often, especially in the Gospels. Yes, I said myHebrew New Testament. In fact, I have two of them.
6:27 AM Greek students! This is way too cool.
6:20 AM Read Save the hymnals, kill the PowerPoint. I have one question. The ability to read music is fast becoming a lost art among Christians. Might this have something to do with the loss of our hymnals?
6:14 AM Nice serendipity: The coffee in our office suite this week was Ethiopian. Coffee is still Ethiopia’s most important cash crop. The main bean is called “Arabica.” Delicious, especially when accompanied by popcorn.
6:05 AM The life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was hanged on April 9, 1945, is being celebrated this month. Those of you with any sympathy at all for what the Confessing Christians went through in Nazi Germany will appreciate this quote from Bonhoeffer’s sermon preached on Reformation Day, November 6, 1932 (as quoted in Georg Huntemann’s Dietrich Bonhoeffer: An Evangelical Reassessment [Baker], p. 285):
No one who knows today’s church will want to complain that the church doesn’t do anything. No, the church does immeasurably much, and also with much sacrifice and seriousness; but we all do precisely too many second, third, and fourth works, and not the first works. And exactly because of this, the church is not doing what is crucial. We celebrate, we represent, we strive for influence, we start a Protestant movement, we do Protestant youth work, we perform charitable service and care, we make propaganda against godlessness–but do we do the first works which are the basis of absolutely everything? Do we love God and our brother with that first, passionate, burning love that risks everything–except God? Do we really allow God to be God? Do we leave ourselves and our church to Him completely? If that were the case, things would have to look different, there would surely be a breakthrough.
6:00 AM Able commentary on the sad state of politics in America is provided by the brave Chuck Baldwin, who knocks another one into the bleachers with his latest essay:
It is time that Christian people begin seeing their politicians, not as saints who can be blindly trusted, but as sinners whose works must be constantly analyzed and scrutinized in the light of the U.S. Constitution.
Tuesday, April 10
5:56 AM I got quite a bit of reading done over the break. I tend to read at the rate of about 100,000 words a minute. (I can recognize in one minute that a 100,000 word book deserves to go unread.) Seriously, I usually read very slowly, brooding over the author's prose in the same way that I savor my first cup of coffee in the morning. Often a well-written paragraph earns a second or third reading, as this felicitous selection from Moonless Night by B. A. James illustrates (it is a WWII escape story):
The Silesian pine forest marched darkly around the barbed wire defences, guard boxes and perimeter lighting enclosing the sandy compounds on which stood the austere wooden barrack huts built to house 800 officer aircrew and double that number of NCOs.
Can you see it? There it is, Stalag Luft 3, right in the middle of Silesia, Poland.
I no longer rush panting and puffing through a book like I did in college. The few tomes I read are simply too good for that and deserve all the setting aside of time that I grant them.
5:50 AM Joshua Austin produced a DVD about our ministry in Ethiopia, which we've sent out to a few friends. One of them sent us this nice note:
Thank you for the wonderful DVD you sent. We had a chance to watch it yesterday. It was a treat and we enjoyed it very much. I was impressed with how well done it was. I am going to pass it around to some people at church. Thank you so very much for the DVD.
Many thanks again, Mr. Austin, for the time and labor you invested in this project.
5:43 AM A brief review of Maurice Robinson's "A Case for Byzantine Priority" appears here.
5:40 AM We just received an excellent email from our Ethiopian son Bereket. I know a teacher who used to quote the saying of the apostle John whenever he thought of his students: "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth" (3 John 4). A man must stand awed and humbled when he sees how his spiritual children stand firmly in the faith. That's what Bereket is doing by the grace of God. A real joy.
5:32 AM I am incredibly proud of the students taking my Intermediate Greek course on 1 Thessalonians, in which the pupils themselves, under my tutelage, are teaching the book, paragraph by paragraph, and doing a splendid job of it. The goal of all teaching, I suppose, is to share the Word in such a way that the pupil "will be able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:2). Like any other skill, teaching must be developed through regular practice. But what I especially want to commend is the attitude I see in my students. If only you could see these young men and women, you would see they are marked by love and humility, and that they are far more concerned with communicating Christ to their classmates than their interpretation of the genitive case or the aorist tense. The latter information is not unimportant, of course. But teaching the Bible should transform our attitudes every bit as much as our theology. This is one of the great challenges of teaching the Scriptures. We tend to see the Bible as informational only and neglect its life-changing dimensions. Yes, we need good information, but our goal is to help others (and ourselves) know God more and more deeply. All of our teaching must focus on truth-response. Knowledge must be related to life. And that is what these students are striving to accomplish. It's beautiful to see.
5:24 AM I guess I began rethinking my approach to “Christian holidays” during my sojourn in Basel, when I wrote a dissertation on Paul’s weakness language. I noted in Galatians 4 that Paul talked about enslavement to the weak and beggarly stoicheia of the world, the rudimentary religious principles that people follow, often unthinkingly. In New Testament times, especially among the Gnostics and Jews, this enslavement expressed itself in the observation of certain “holidays” such as yearly feasts, monthly new moons, and weekly Sabbaths. These days were thought to belong specially to God. On these days certain thing had to be done and other things avoided. Paul’s reaction was, “Why do you want to be enslaved all over again, this time by so-called Christian holidays? That is to abandon Christian freedom.” Anytime we make a religion out of customs and regulations we are, I think, making a mockery of the Gospel, because we rob Christ of His sole significance. Real religion is fellowshiping with Christ and others, and if we can do this on “Easter Sunday,” so much the better, but surely we ought never to make that day (or any day) a legalism and abandon Christian freedom. The charge Paul makes against the Galatians is that their traditions are human things; they have no basis in Scripture. They are the product of human thinking, not the Word of God. It simply makes no difference whether or not we "observe holy days." At best they are only a shadow of the truth; at worst, they obscure it. Christ is the Christian life, and we can enjoy and serve Him every day, "holiday" or not.
Sunday, April 8
1:10 PM This past week we received special prayer requests from Ethiopia for the congregation in Besheno (where the government is making it very difficult for the believers to meet) and for Hajji Mohammed and his family (the opponents of Christianity recently caused some trouble in Keranso, though no physical harm ensued this time, thank God). If one word describes these humble Christians it is endurance. The Greek term behind our English "endurance" implies much more than passive submission. A man of endurance not only patiently receives the blows of life but he uses them to strengthen his faith and that of others. Being brave, he helps others to be courageous. God knows that we all need difficulty from time to time, not for our punishment, but for the good of our souls. Pray, then, for the persecuted in Alaba. They don't need our pity but our intercession. It is a wonderful thing to be strengthened by the prayers of others. I would also ask for special intercession for several of our Ethiopia summer team members, who seem to be facing trouble in a myriad of ways. I can't share the details, but the words "Satanic oppression" are not too strong. We certainly have wonderful team members. Could it be that God is choosing his best soldiers for the hardest tasks?
7:59 AM Today I feel led to say a word about my former Greek professor, Dr. Harry Sturz. Dr. Sturz began teaching Greek at Biola College the year I was born (1952). He had an enormous influence on me both when he taught me and when he hired me to teach Greek at Biola in 1976. He was tough as nails in the classroom (he had the highest standards) but soft as a feather outside of class. I recall one special incident. It was the last day of the semester, and I was packing my bags for my flight back to Hawaii. Our final exam had been completed that morning. To my great surprise, who should I find knocking on my dormitory door but Dr. Sturz? He had hobbled, walking stick in hand (his hip had just been replaced), across campus and up two flights of stairs just to hand me my final exam and thank me for the job I had done that semester in class. I was dumbfounded. I have rarely seen the face of Christ so clearly in any human being before or since. I hope and pray that one day I might become as good a teacher as he was.
In whom do you see the risen Christ today? Thank God for him or her. Then let them know just how special they are to you.
7:50 AM From the vault: Every Lord's Day Is Resurrection Sunday.
7:46 AM Why is Becky Lynn practicing kissing knees? Go here for the answer. It's part of her latest interview with Mrs. Julie Austin of Parenting With Purpose.
7:40 AM Yesterday I spent 11 hours working with Nathan on two of his jobs in the big city of South Boston. We fixed a sink drain line, then we repaired the roof line of a historic Victorian home. Nathan worked under a house then atop a 40 foot ladder. I was the gofer, of course. I have no idea where Nathan finds these jobs. He doesn't advertise his services. It's all by word of mouth. He's got an excellent reputation in the community as a workman/artisan who does his work on time and with excellence. The Victorian is a real beauty, by the way. Full of wonderful antiques. About 6000 square feet, too. Nate's been hired to paint part of the exterior next. Then we've got a 2-day job repairing and painting the roof of an antebellum house in Enfield, NC. In between, it's hay time. And planting time. And chicken picking time. Not to mention expanding Nathan's farmhouse and adding another chimney. As for my work, I'm looking forward to a few extra speaking assignments this week, not to mention the pleasurable duty of teaching my classes and meeting with my students. We'll also be grading our take-home Greek exams on Tuesday. Do I feel busy? Yes and no. It's what I've always called "restful rushing." In the midst of a hectic schedule there's a peace and a joy and a strength that comes from being "co-yoked" with Jesus. After all, He said, "My yoke is easy, and My burden is light." So what can we complain about?
7:34 AM Got the following email request yesterday:
I am trying to put together good NT/Greek library. Could you please suggest ten (or more if you wish) must have books for NT/Greek scholar such NT theology, lexicon etc....anything that I should have in order to be well equipped for Greek scholarly work. Thank you for your help.
Interestingly, I have done exactly that in my little book Using New Testament Greek in Ministry. In chapter 2 ("Off the Shelf and Into Yourself: Selecting the Right Tools for Greek Exegesis") I suggest 10 essential tools for using Greek in ministry. If you do not have a copy of that book (or access to one in your local library) I would happy to send you my suggestions by snail mail if you'll send me your mailing address.
Saturday, April 7
9:21 PM Our email is back up again. Kudos to our great IT staff at the seminary.
Friday, April 6
8:36 AM Farm update: The geese have just left, flying northward.... We're having company this evening so we'll be spiffying up the farm. Lots of things to spiffy, too.... Nate and I will be adding another shed to the farm today. As our equipment and hay increase, so does our need for storage space. If we can just avoid the cluttered look.... It's time to swap out our manure trailers again in Oxford, then spread it on one of our fields. This kind of work will either get you in great shape or kill you. (Nate says it might do both.).... Time to enjoy a cup of coffee with Becky. Have a wonderful day wherever you are.
8:30 AM It's official: our email is down.
8:19 AM Nice serendipity: As I sit here typing a flock of 7 or 8 Canadian Geese has just landed on our pond. Beautiful.
8:16 AM This is one of the best discussions of the textual variant in Romans 5:1 that I have ever read. Simply outstanding. (Students: Note how the author explores verbal aspect, and how he takes the immediate context into account.)
8:12 AM As you might imagine, one of my favorite characters in the movie Pride and Prejudice is none other than the infamous Mr. Collins. The reasons are obvious. A clergyman he is, and rightly proud of his profession! And then there's his penchant for verbosity. How I wish I could kvetch like that! Above all, I get a kick every time I hear him prattling on about how lucky he is to receive the "condescension" of his patron, Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
Makes me think of the number of my-way-or-the-highway clergymen I've met in my life who seem allergic to introspection or analysis of any kind. I'm sure I'm not very well-suited to being a clergyman in that fashion and certainly I could never have survived the Anabaptist purges in Europe. As with our current misadventure in the Middle East, those in power tend to operate on the mistaken assumption that if they just act like the king of the world everyone else will either bow down or scamper away. Sadly, the price for such hubris is all too plain. On this Good Friday, then, perhaps we would do well to remember what the real King of the Universe said about leadership:
You've observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads. It's not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not to be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for many who are held hostage (Mark 10:42-45, The Message).
None of us can ever fully plumb the depths of Calvary. But we can start to emulate it (as Jesus taught us) by exercising leadership with a gentle sensitivity and a genuine humility that will allow us to function as the Lord designed us to be, rather than as pale imitations of bosses and CEOs. Find a leader like that, my friend, and you've found a quality of leadership that merits following.
Thursday, April 5
4:44 PM Reminder: The seminary's email services will be down this weekend, possibly starting as early as this evening. I am told your emails will not be lost, though we won't be able to access them until sometime on Sunday.
4:04 PM For some reason I can't get the bell choir at Hunting Creek out of my mind. I think it might be because it's such an amazing picture of the Body of Christ at work, each member doing its job (but no one else's!) to produce wonderful harmony to the glory of God.
The ministry, in a word, is "shared" (a word I have come to love, from the Old English scearu, "a cutting, shearing, division [of labor]"). It costs a lot, of course -- hours of practice, the humility to make mistakes and be corrected, the loyalty to one another, the willingness to show up when required. I find this principle at work wherever I go. At seminary, where the centrifugal force of opinions and personalities could very well drive people apart if they were not all held together by the wonderful glue of mutual love and core beliefs and a commitment to the Great Commission. At home, where one is constantly required to set aside one's personal preferences for the common good. On the mission field, where the Holy Spirit seems to find special delight in taking people from vastly different races and nations and welding them together for kingdom expansion. I believe this principle of teamwork would also work in our churches at large. The Lord Jesus never intended for a few believers to do all the work of ministry. He intended that there would be a team of like-minded Christians working together with a common mind for the common good. Do you know of a church in which there exists a "fellowship of workmanship"? If so, that is likely to be a church where the people love and trust each other. Hardly the monochrome of the pastor-centered church! It's more like the beautiful polychrome of a bell choir, wouldn't you say?
3:25 PM A warm welcome to the newest addition to Rosewood Farm, born last night:
Note: Farming is difficult work. But it also affords an opportunity to get out under God's big sky, to take a deep breath, and to pause in the mad rush and reflect upon life at a deeper level. This morning we had such a moment as we stood in awe of the miracle of new life. Here's the handiwork of Jesus, our great Creator.
9:12 AM One more thought about Greek before I start my farm work. What makes a good Greek teacher? I think it's the relational aspect of teaching. Such was the case with my own Greek professor in college. Dr. Sturz's lessons were more caught than taught. He concentrated on content, as all Greek teachers must, but never at the expense of incarnational teaching. Fuzzy thinking at this point has tended, I think, to make Greek instruction shallow and sometimes meaningless. That said, the ultimate responsibility for learning Greek rests with the learner. If he or she is unwilling to spend the effort to learn, then nothing the teacher does will make much difference.
7:35 AM What "8:30" really means in Ethiopia. (For more on life in the exciting city of Addis Ababa, go here.)
7:30 AM The British Library recently held a Greek Teachers Day. Superb idea. If we in the States were to hold a Greek Teachers Day, here are some topics I'd like to see discussed:
- The pronunciation of the diphthong ei ("ei" as in "eight" or in "height"?)
- The use of morphology in teaching verbs (I employ a mild approach; others none)
- Textual criticism (I used to introduce the subject in first-year Greek but now postpone it to the third semester)
- Deponency (should the category be dropped, or just refined?)
- Verbal aspect (especially in the indicative mood)
- The third declension (how many exceptions to teach?)
- Word order (is Greek a VSO language?)
- The article (have we over-exegeted it?)
- Intensive autos (why is it left untranslated in so many English versions?)
- Amalgamation (should the rules be learned by heart?)
- Class size (how big a difference does it really make?)
- Greek New Testament (will any do?)
Wednesday, April 4
7:37 AM The latest addition to our home page is called A Lesson in Teamwork.
7:34 AM At our revival service last night the Hunting Creek Praise Ringers played. Marvelous. Becky video-taped it, as one of our Alaba team members will be teaching hand bells in Ethiopia this summer.
Becky's talk and slides were well received. Even though I've heard her presentation many times, I never tire of listening to the stories of God's grace in Ethiopia.
Below: Pastor Tony Sisk and his precious family. Tonight's final session will focus on youth.
7:22 AM Important message: We will be without email service from Friday to Sunday due to upgrades being made at the seminary. Please plan your correspondence with us accordingly.
Tuesday, April 3
1:45 PM Nathan just had 3 of our fields fertilized. The rest we've done by hand. Can you tell I'm excited about our crops this year?
7:58 AM Last night, on my drive home from revival services in Nathalie, VA, the radio was playing Beethoven's magnificent 1st symphony in C Major. I was struck by the very first chord. In fact, it pulled the rug right out from under me. It is a C Major 7th chord. That is, it contains a B flat! This is highly unusual and comes as a huge surprise, because instead of listening to a concert in C major the piece immediately modulates into an F major mode. I thought about all the similar unexpected twists and turns in my own life, all intended by the Master Composer for my good, but certainly introducing a good bit of dissonance into my life at the time. My first trip to Ethiopia is a good example. What began as a homecoming of sorts for my wife and me became the first step in our long missionary pilgrimage. Who would have ever thought we would be traveling to Ethiopia twice a year? Likewise, who could have imagined 9 years ago that Becky and I would move from Southern California to the fields and farms of the rural South? Yet in both instances I feel like I've come home. In fact, I've never felt more contented in my life. Speaking of the revival services, I sensed a wonderful moving of the Holy Spirit last night. I feel right at home among these farmers and country folk. They respond well to home-spun preaching (which is all I am capable of). I noticed that the Amish have begun moving into the area. You can't blame them. The countryside is some of the most beautiful in the States. I suppose I should know. I've traveled by ground (not air) through some 45 states, including Washington and California on the left coast, and Vermont and Florida on the right. Nobody will convince me that the Piedmont of North Carolina and Virginia is not the most pleasant landscape in North America. Yet even here there are many lost and sin-sick people. In even the happiest lives there are deep pockets of incurable pain. Jesus alone is the answer.
Monday, April 2
8:42 AM My morning devotions brought me to the wonderful fourth chapter of 1 Corinthians. Just imagine it. The apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ being described as a spectacle and as horse manure:
We are weak, but you are strong. You are honored, but we are dishonored. To this moment, we are hungry, thirsty, poorly dressed, roughly treated, and homeless. We wear ourselves out doing physical labor. When people verbally abuse us, we bless them. When people persecute us, we endure it. When our reputations are attacked, we remain courteous. Right now we have become garbage in the eyes of the world and trash in the sight of all people (1 Cor. 4:10b-13).
All this can be said of the Alaba evangelists, the "have-nots" of the Ethiopian evangelical church. I am simply amazed at their endurance -- not a stoic indifference to suffering, but a supernatural, Spirit-given joy and exultation in the face of difficulty. It is a very humbling thing to witness, really. Their dedication and willingness to obey, whatever the cost, is truly remarkable. No wonder the Gospel is spreading like wildfire in the Alaba region. Becky and I have established, as it were, an evangelists fund to help these men when they get sick (which they often do) or when they need clothing, etc. In this blog post I am not pleading for your participation in this ministry. But I am asking you to pray for these evangelists. It is the church that waters others that is itself watered by God. And may I be as eager as they are to share the Good News whenever opportunity knocks.
Below: Pictures of some of the Alaba evangelists taken during Becky's interview with them for her forthcoming book on the church in Alaba. These are your brothers in Christ who do battle on the front lines. I love them so much it hurts.
8:30 AM We got home late last night after an exhausting but fulfilling day. It was great to be back at Hunting Creek Baptist Church in beautiful northern Halifax County. Actually, I had preached there once before but didn't realize it until a gentleman said to me, "I've seen you here before." Being the ultimate peripatetic teacher I had forgotten! Last night I spoke from Matt 9:35-38 on why Becky and I are in the "Gospel business." I challenged the families and the congregation at large not to do anything but what the Lord Jesus tells us at the end of that passage: "Pray ye." The whole of evangelism is dependent on prayer. If only we would ask God to thrust out laborers into the harvest. If only we would ask Him to show us what part He wants us to play in world missions. Does your church prioritize prayer? If it does, I can almost guarantee that it will be missional.
Tonight is an intentional evangelist thrust. I'm asking everyone to bring an unsaved friend to the meeting. Tuesday is Ethiopia night. Wednesday is youth night. I'll be speaking on themyth of adolescence and opening it up for questions and answers. I'm hoping many parents and grandparents will be there, as well as many young people.
8:25 AM Life in 3-D makes its blogging debut. Congratulations you three!
Sunday, April 1
8:31 AM This link is a bit dated, but if you're interested in seeing a list of the "top 20 seminaries" in America, click here. (Unfortunately, no criteria are mentioned.)
8:28 AM Here are two quotes given by one of the speakers at a recent conference at SEBTS. Please notice what is said about preaching on a level that even children can understand the message.
Martin Luther: “A preacher should have the skill to teach the unlearned simply, roundly, and plainly; for teaching is of more importance than exhorting…When I preach I regard neither doctors nor magistrates, of whom I have above forty in the congregation. I have all my eyes on the servant maids and the children. And if the learned men are not well pleased with what they hear, well, the door is one.”
D. Martin Lloyd-Jones: “the wise preacher keeps his eye on the simple and the children. If a great and learned man feels that he does not get anything out of the message he is condemning himself. He is condemning himself in the sense that he is not spiritually minded, that he is not able to receive spiritual truth. He is so ‘puffed up’ and blown up with his head knowledge that he has forgotten that he has a heart and a soul. He condemns himself, and if he walks out, well, he is the loser.”
The point seems to be that we can and should make our preaching so simple that little children can listen and benefit. If this is the case, I wonder why so many churches send their children out of the preaching service so that they can have teaching "on their level." It seems to me that every message ought to be for all believers of any age, including children. In other words, every message is in reality a "children's sermon." What do you think?
8:20 AM My esteemed colleague Andreas Köstenberger recently published an excellent overview of Bible study tools. It's the sequel to his earlier list of commentaries on the New Testament.
8:16 AM Seems that a student I had in California is a top contender to become the CEO of a major Christian university. When I mentioned that to Nathan he said, "You know you're getting old, dad, when one of your former students becomes the president of a university."
8:12 AM A Greek teacher tussles with a student over the subjunctive mood. Too funny!
8:10 AM Guess the region: "It's the least evangelized and most gospel-resistant mega-population on earth." Click here for the answer.
8:06 AM I just discovered an interesting new word: "dysangelize." Here's where I found it.
8:00 AM Oh. Ah. Hoo. It's where I was born and raised. It's where I learned to appreciate nature. I've often been asked, "Did you ever take growing up on Oahu for granted?" I can honestly tell you there was not a single day that went by when I did not consciously thank the Lord for the beauty of the Islands. Here's a photo of a sunrise at Kailua Beach. Not every morning was as spectacular as this one, but many were.
It's the same today. I live on the most beautiful farm in Virginia. I teach on the most beautiful campus in America. I travel to the most beautiful nation in Africa. I have the most beautiful animals on earth. And the One who created it all is my Master and Redeemer. Unbelievable!
7:55 AM Seen on a church sign: