Saturday, May 24
11:43 AM Today I leave for Africa. I couldn't be more excited. Winning the world for Christ is bigger than I am, but it includes me too. As a Christian I have a clear goal in life. I am not my own. I no longer own even the clothes I wear. I am a slave. A slave to God. My energies and attention are undivided. My involvement in the Word drives me to involvement in the world. One is incomplete without the other.
I consider each of my trips to Ethiopia to be a study tour of sorts. Of course, that any subject as complex and kaleidoscopic as Ethiopian culture might be studied in a few weeks or even months betrays either naiveté, stupidity, or presumptuousness. I plead guilty to all three. Nevertheless I approach this visit, as I do every trip, anxious to understand what little about Ethiopia that can be understood in a glance so fleeting. How little we can know about anysubject in a lifetime! Still, one must make the effort. Whenever I visit Ethiopia I always marvel at the very strange stuff (strange to me) that makes one wonder at the extraordinary versatility of the human race, capable of practically anything and able to flourish in the most improbable social environment. I always have the feeling, when I see the rich history of Ethiopia, that if we knew the right way to go about it, we could do things far more strange and lovely than even the strangest and loveliest of past history. What one must do is to discourse with Ethiopian culture, yet without attempting to ape it or to graft its ways of life or thought incongruously onto one's own.
I have enjoyed each of my trips to Ethiopia. This by no means suggests that they are easy. I am a co-laborer with the Infinite, Sovereign Lord of the Universe, but I am still frail, finite, and often fickle. In Gethsemane Jesus did not pretend He had no pain or anguish over what He was about to experience. But He went to the cross because He counted others as better than Himself. I would like to think that this too is my motive for going to Ethiopia. God alone knows. I do know one thing. The Bible says, "I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of equality your abundance at the present time should supply their want" (2 Cor. 8:13-14). I ask myself: How can those in want continue in want, and I continue in abundance? Impossible! Christ died for the church. Certainly I can give up my vacation time.
Let me state clearly and unequivocally: I am not a hero. I am as much as sinner as anybody. Just ask my family. But I know God. I am His child. I am also His slave. Daniel wrote: "The people who know their God shall stand firm and take action" (Dan. 11:32). If you would like to pray for me while I'm gone, pray that I will stand firm and act. And if you would like to see a daily schedule of my travels, Becky has prepared one. She's calling it Dave's Prayer Itinerary. As you can see, it's non-stop. Not to say that Becky will be inactive while I'm gone. This Sunday she is speaking on Ethiopia in Rougemont, NC, and next week she begins training our Burji team for our November trip. And what can I say about Nate and Jessie? I'm so proud of them. They have taken a bold stand in our community for Christ. And what a joy it is to watch them working the fields and the gardens. Their goal is to be completely self-sufficient on the farm, eking out a subsistence living, doing without all the unnecessary and ephemeral "thrills" of life -- and, my word, I think they'll make it!
In the meantime, I'll be taking a break from blogging. I don't need one, but you probably do! Of course, I'm taking along several writing pads, and you can count on an update as soon as I get unpacked on June 24. Because access to the Internet will be extremely limited while I'm gone, I'm requesting that readers forego emailing me until after I return or I will be forced, while recovering from jet lag, to catch up on a vast arrears of correspondence while at the same time preparing for my sabbatical travels. Thanks muchly.
Well, my family has just decided to take me out to eat before my flight, so I've gotta run. What fun!
Talk to you later, Lord willing. Love and blessings, Dave
Friday, May 23
7:11 PM So, did you take yesterday's exit exam? Were you surprised that it was comprised solely of Scripture verses? I think some of my students were too. They may have been expecting questions about pseudonymity or the Romans debate or the encyclical theory of Ephesians. I wanted to make a point: It is possible sometimes to know everything about the New Testament and not know the New Testament itself. At any rate, if you took the exam, here are the answers:
Rom. 5:1, 1 John 3:1, 2 Thess. 3:17, Col. 3:21, Jude 9, Phil. 1:27, 2 Pet. 3:3-4, Rom. 12:9, Gal. 2:1, Heb. 2:1, Rev. 22:7, 1 Thess 5:23, 1 Cor. 14:26, 3 John 9, Eph. 3:20-21, Tit. 1:5, 1 Cor. 9:1, 2 Tim. 2:22, 2 Thess. 2:1-2, 2 Cor. 5:1, Tit. 2:11, 1 Tim. 2:1, James 1:9, Col. 2:1, 1 Tim. 4:1, 1 Pet. 2:9, 2 Cor. 12:1, 1 Thess 3:1, Philemon 18, Rev. 11:1, 1 Pet. 1:8, Gal. 6:1, Heb. 13:2, 1 John 5:16, Eph. 6:18, Phil. 3:7, 2 John 1, 2 Tim. 1:7, 2 Pet 1:10, and James 4:13.
6:48 PM A few pix from today's festivities. Binckley Chapel was packed to the gills with friends and families of the graduates -- some 220 of them.
Becky, Nathan, and Jessie joined me to witness Matthew Rondeau joyfully receive his M.A. degree.
The Rondeau clan. Immediately afterwards they left for a well-deserved vacation at the beach. Catch a big one for Papa B, Caleb!
Uncle Nathan sporting his new farm hat.
After commencement, the Korean students and graduates graciously invited us to join them for a cookout featuring bulgogi and kaejigogi.
Becky with a future student.
Right now we're doing some last minute packing. In just 24 hours my flight leaves Dulles for Addis.
7:22 AM Today marks my 31st year of attending commencement services as a professor of Greek. I am humbled to be a member of such a wonderful profession. The Christian faith is at heart an intellectual faith. As I once heard Francis Schaeffer say to a group of students in Switzerland, faith perfects the mind, it does not destroy it. Faith is the way to a vital contact with a God who is knowable, and not to some abstract "Principle" worked out by syllogisms. Ultimately faith is the key to the universe.
To my students who are graduating today I say: Keep this faith! Hold fast to the Truth! Human tradition only perpetuates things that cannot be perpetuated, but God's Truth lasts forever. The life of the church is the life of God, poured out into His church by His Spirit. Remain under the Spirit and under the Word! No other "word" can ever replace or supersede it. To those who have attained worldly knowledge and academic recognition, this Word says, "Be fools for Christ's sake, take the last place among men, live with those who are uneducated and despised, serve other men instead of making them serve you. When they push you around, do not resist them but pray for them. Take upon yourself Christ's cross -- his humility and poverty and obedience and renunciation -- and you will find rest for your souls."
I leave you with an old Scottish proverb: "Greek, Hebrew, and Latin all have their proper place. But it is not at the head of the cross, where Pilate put them, but rather at the foot of the cross in humble service to Christ."
7:13 AM These letters arrived this week:
1) From a Southeastern Seminary student: "Dr. and Mrs. Black. Here is a small gift to assist with the work you are doing for the glory of God. We pray it will be used in a way that you see a need. Thank you for your witness and encouragement in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. Blessings on your trip Dr. Black."
2) From West Monroe, LA: "Dear Bro. Black and Mrs. Black. Enclosed is another small contribution to the Lord's work in Ethiopia. Your website remains a continued source of encouragement, blessing, and challenge to my wife and me. May He continue to bless you and your work for the Kingdom!"
Becky and I get dozens of such letters every year. They are fresh reminders to us that in the Holy Spirit, and in the Body of Christ anointed by that Spirit, the church has the resources and the power to produce the firstfruits of the kingdom. The effectiveness of the church is not due to human competency or leadership but to the power and love of God at work in individuals such as these. As you can see, what Becky and I do is done cooperatively, for the sake of the church's mission, working together with people from all walks of life, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit as He leads them to become involved. How blessed we are to have such partners in the work! We could never repay their kindness to us and to the Ethiopians!
Thursday, May 22
6:50 PM Seems every farmer in the country was out cutting hay today. So was Nathan. Here he is mowing a 20-acre field. If the weather holds, he will bale early next week. I will sorely miss all the fun!
Not every farmer has such a pretty wife to bring him water when he gets thirsty -- and that's a fact!
Meanwhile Becky and I were out in our gardens -- I rotary tilling, she planting. I know of many people who complain about how hard farm life is. I sometimes complain myself, especially when I am tired, as I was today. Yet I never dreamed I would ever be doing what I am doing today, and I am grateful.
10:41 AM The day is gloriously beautiful. I am spending it, or at least the morning portion of it, resting up and getting some rather introspective writing done. I just had to go outdoors and snap these pix, however. The amazing colors of this day are too wonderful to keep to myself. My favorite photo is the last one: roses from Burji (which Becky's mother planted in Ethiopia 50 years ago) are now climbing on our garden fence.
8:23 AM I am fascinated by Ron Paul's continuing struggle in the guise of a minute David against the Goliath of American militarism. This time he takes up his defense of the U.S. Constitution with respect to Lebanon. It is my conviction, of course, that the solution is not to be found in politics. The presence of spiritually alive men and women can change society in ways no ordinary political methodology can. That politicians, even Christian ones, do not say so explicitly, makes it no less true.
8:13 AM The Jesuit missionaries were accepted in China both for their learnedness and for the respect they showed for Chinese culture. I have discovered that cultural differences have no real bearing on the essentials of Christianity. I am as happy serving Christ in India or Korea or Ukraine as I am in the Forest of Wake. In a sense I feel very much like a "man without a country" -- or, better -- a man with a heavenly politeuma (Phil. 3:20). Which is one reason I feel so much "at home" among the Ethiopian believers. They are my family, and I love them terribly.
6:47 AM Evangelical Textual Criticism has a very helpful link to F. F. Bruce’s “Textual Problems in the Epistle to the Hebrews” (.pdf). I well remember receiving Bruce’s typescript in the mail with the author’s hand-written corrections (including white out). I placed it in a very special place for safekeeping. It’s a reminder of the days before email and word processing. Amazing, but the first two books I wrote I produced on a thing called a typewriter (my students have no inkling of what that is), including 4 drafts of Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek – for which I had to replace the daisy wheel (photo) whenever I wanted to change from English to Greek. My next book was typed on a brand new Macintosh computer.
Incidentally, Bruce’s essay was published posthumously and may have been his last published work.
6:40 AM Reading yet another article about the ending of Mark, this time by Robert Stein in the latest issue of Bulletin of Biblical Research 18.1 ("The Ending of Mark"), reminded me of John Peer’s Law of Enough Already: "The more you run over a dead cat, the flatter it gets." The essay did, however, contain an amazing confession in a footnote (p. 83):
Perhaps I will be permitted to share a personal anecdote here. Since my doctoral studies at Princeton Theological Seminary where I did my dissertation on Mark, I have had a continued love affair with this Gospel. I think I can say with some measure of confidence that this is the book of the Bible of which I am least ignorant. I have become familiar with the style, vocabulary, and theological interests of the author of Mark 1:1-16:8, but I do not know the identity of the author of 16:9-20. He is a stranger to me.
Allow me, if you will, to be so bold as to introduce the author of the last twelve verses of Mark: Mark! A quote: "I will argue that Mark originally ended his gospel narrative (comprised of the actual words of Peter) at 16:8 and then later supplied the last twelve verses himself as a suitable conclusion. Of course, this view is based on a certain solution to the Synoptic Problem, a topic that will occupy a major portion of this paper."
6:32 AM Here’s how to read (and mark up) a book. I’m afraid I’m too hopelessly eccentric to use any method, as this page from my Greek New Testament attests. I usually focus on such matters as verbal aspect, the Granville Sharpe construction, repetition (as with "Gospel" in the passage below), prepositional prefix morphemes, and emphasis (sometimes detectable only in the Greek).
6:27 AM Blogger or Word Press? Either way, shouldn't you be blogging?
6:22 AM Greek students, have you seen the series by Duncan Forbes on using Greek in your devotions? If not, go here for part 10.
6:15 AM Thanks to Jonathan Terry, we now have a new duck family living at our pond. It's a good thing, too. They are keeping Duck and Mary away. The latter duo were coming up to Bradford Hall at about 6:30 every morning. Sheppie, of course, let us know they were there ad barkeum. But ever since our new ducklings arrived the daring duo has kept its distance. Ergo -- morning quietude!
6:05 AM Here's the exit exam I gave yesterday to my New Testament class. I promised anyone who got 40 out of 40 a free copy of The Myth of Adolescence. How many can you get right? Answers tomorrow.
Please indicate the New Testament book the following quotes come from. (You need not give chapter and verse.) When you are done, check your answers with the key, and then write your score at the top of this page (e.g., 35/40). Hint: Each book from Romans to Revelation is represented at least once.
1) Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
2) See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.
3) I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write.
4) Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.
5) But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!"
6) Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.
7) Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation."
8) Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.
9) Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also.
10) For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it.
11) "And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book."
12) Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
13) What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.
14) I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say.
15) Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
16) For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you.
17) Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?
18) Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
19) Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.
20) For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
21) For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men.
22) First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men.
23) But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position.
24) For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face.
25) But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.
26) But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
27) Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.
28) Therefore when we could endure it no longer, we thought it best to be left behind at Athens alone.
29) But if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account;
30) Then there was given me a measuring rod like a staff; and someone said, "Get up and measure the temple of God and the altar, and those who worship in it.
31) Though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.
32) Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.
33) Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.
34) If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this.
35) With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.
36) But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
37) The elder to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in truth; and not only I, but also all who know the truth.
38) For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.
39) Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble.
40) Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit."
Wednesday, May 21
6:52 PM Greg Boyd asks: Would you wash Bin Laden’s feet?
6:45 PM Yesterday brother Heath Faircloth of Bladen Union Baptist Church drove all the way from Fayetteville to deliver clothes, a laptop, backpacks, etc. for Ethiopia. Then he got back in his car and drove back home. I was amazed to see him come so far only to turn around as if nothing had happened. I realize what a sacrifice of time and fuel it was. His visit touched me very much. So “Thank you!” to Heath and the entire Bladen Union church family. Your loving deeds seemed to summarize Paul’s words in Romans 12: “Love must be completely sincere.” “Love one another warmly as brothers in Christ.” “Work hard and do not be lazy.” “Serve the lord with a heart full of devotion.” “Share your belongings with your needy brothers.”
6:39 PM Congratulations to my Ph.D. student Mel Winstead, who passed his orals yesterday with flying colors. He's shown here with his wife Heather, his daughter Lydia Damaris, and his persecutors-in-chief: Beck, Robinson, and Black. Mel now enters the dissertation phase of his studies and anticipates working in the book of Hebrews. Onward and upward!
6:28 PM My friend and colleague Alvin Reid talks about his love-hate relationship with the church. I liked this quote:
I hate the way we have become horrible at change and yet we are even more unwilling to learn from others. Sometimes I think we believe if we did not think it up, whatever “it” is, it must be from the devil.
My own take is this: Institutions can only be changed by changed – and changing – individuals. Evil never builds anything constructive. But the battlefield is not so much our organizations as the battlefield that lies in each one of us, within ourselves. Organizations are nothing but groupings of individuals. That’s why Jesus changes His church one person at a time. If there had been another way, He would have done it – flipped the switch, snapped His fingers. That’s why, even though I may get frustrated at times with the organized church, I’m glad I’m not in charge of changing it. None of us but Christ has “arrived.” Thinking that I have made it makes me look down on those who haven’t. The key is for all of us to get our eyes on Jesus and to wean ourselves from looking at ourselves or others. Thanks, Alvin, for focusing us upon the Savior and for the reminder that “people matter more than flow charts.”
Tuesday, May 20
6:10 AM Yesterday Jessie's mom and brother came for a visit. Here's Jonathan:
And here's his sister with one of her baby chicks:
We baled hay...
...and got it in the barn just before dark.
My favorite photo of the day:
Right now I'm off to school. Back-to-back appointments all day. One Ph.D. oral. Greek students will grade their final exams. God willing I will post semester grades to the seminary website tomorrow afternoon. Friday is commencement. Saturday I leave. Tempus is fidgeting, to paraphrase the ancient Romans.
Monday, May 19
10:08 AM Becky tells me that at 3:00 am a mean old skunk sprayed both of our precious, innocent, helpless little puppies. I slept through the whole thing. No, I have NOT been out to see the dogs yet.
10:03 AM Amazon has just listed my latest book, Perspectives on the Ending of Mark, which is now available for pre-order.
8:08 AM I see that one writer is putting his strike-through key to very good use. I wish someone would show me how to do that. I am thinking of starting a series on the things I myself have said or written and yet hypocritically never practiced or explained away for the sake of expediency.
7:52 AM Most people know that I serve as the New Testament editor of the International Standard Version of the Bible, which means that it was my responsibility to produce the base translations for all 27 New Testament writings from Greek into English. What a labor it was! I think the final product -- after being reviewed by scholars and by the entire Committee on Translation -- is pretty good, but I really don't know and rely on the judgment of others. I was exceedingly grateful, then, when yesterday I received a link to yet another review of the ISV New Testament, and I wish to thank its author for his insightful comments, which the Committee will take very seriously. Translators face an impossible task, really. One might as well accuse of escapism the mathematician who does not continually spend his talents and energies on trying to square the circle!
6:44 AM Potpourri:
1) We enjoyed a splendid evening last night celebrating Liz's birthday and enjoying Becky's home-style Mexican cuisine. How she cooks it so well -- quien sabe? We had Matt and the boys "kidnap" Liz and bring to her an "undisclosed location" (our home) for her surprise party. It was buckets of fun. And Becky's Waldorf Astoria cake was sumptuous.
2) My stomach has been a bit queasy of late, possibly the result of having Ethiopian food and a boat load of popcorn all in one fell swoop. But all's well that ends Wells, as the man said on reading some of H. G. Wells' articles in the Daily Chronicle, and today I'm feeling much less like a corpse.
3) Tomorrow I return to Wake Forest one last time this semester to work on my final grades. I know few things more beautiful than the Southeastern campus and its surrounding streets of ante-bellum homes. I feel a bit run down as I return to school, as I find grading papers more tiring than most labor I undertake. Not only is the mental concentration great, but the physical strain on the eyes is considerable. I stagger out of the papers feeling as if I had been bruised all over after a 10-round match. I will, however, miss my students during my sabbatical. How shall I make it without teaching -- Gott weiss! Oh, before I forget, let me publicly thank my teaching assistants Caxton Mburu and Dae Yoo, who had to put up with an eccentric pedagogue all year long.
4) Meanwhile the websites are filled this morning with news about the war -- subject of ineffable squalor, and which I hope may be exhausted forever by the end of next year, provided the new Commander-in-Chief has any sense. I am glad to see less pom-pom waving as the days go by, though it does seem that liberty is all but utterly démodé. One has only to think of habeas corpus -- that indispensable act about which we learned so much in school but is now merely a mossy relic of the sordid past.
5) Today begins our last week of preparations for my trip to Ethiopia. Much to do!
6) Here are some party pix. (If you get weary of seeing so many pictures I apologize, but after all, America has become nothing but one giant Pictocracy, so I figure: Why not join the fun?)
Sunday, May 18
2:45 PM This morning Becky did a fantastic job, as always, in presenting what the Lord is doing in Ethiopia, particularly in the 3 places in which He has appointed us to work: Burji, Alaba, and Gondar, from the southernmost regions to the far north of the country. I spoke on the 5 qualifications for a missionary from Phil. 2:25 and the example of Epaphroditus, who was Paul's fellow Christian, fellow worker, and fellow soldier (i.e., they shared a common faith, a common work, and a common danger), and the church's personal representative (apostolos) who was sent to minister to Paul's needs (leitourgos). I think of the many selfless laborers for Christ in Ethiopia who meet this description to a tee. Lacking money, social standing, or political influence, the church there is making its way through the storm and opposition, and is triumphing. Our thanks to the people of North Roxboro for assisting us in this work.
As Becky reminded us, this is actually all the work of the Lord Jesus. It is a supernatural work. In the strength of the risen Christ, the power of God is being poured out into the Ethiopian church. Praise His Name!
8:44 AM This morning Becky and I are speaking on Ethiopia at North Roxboro Baptist Church in Roxboro, NC. Next Sunday Becky will be speaking on Ethiopia at Bethany Baptist Church in Rougemont, NC, and I will be in Ethiopia. Meanwhile there is still much work to be done in preparation for the trip. I am nearly 56. Everything is getting rusty. Still, I have work to do!
8:32 AM The libertarian point of view defends liberty as it ought. I wonder, however, whether this insistence on liberty is fundamentally a refusal of the Christian faith. Not necessarily of Christian faith in the full sense of the word -- many libertarians are genuine Christians -- but a refusal of the readiness, the openness, the self-forgetfulness that Christianity absolutely demands: that we give up the intransigent claims to perfect autonomy and freedom. To my mind a defense only of freedom is precarious and misleading. If we could only understand what happened at the cross, where Jesus surrendered all of His "rights," we might perhaps completely revise our idea of what constitutes "Christianity" and what bestows freedom and fulfillment on the individual. This means in fact recognizing that no one is absolutely free, and that one cannot live and die for himself. My life is not purely and simply my own business. "None of us lives for himself and none dies for himself, but whether we live or die we are the Lord's" (Rom. 14:8). It is this facet of Christianity (and I admit that Christianity is multifaceted) that I find curiously missing in the otherwise inspiring writings of Christian libertarians. The will of Christ is that we use our freedoms to advance His cause in the world, and this cause is primarily propagating the only Good News that sets men and women free. I suppose this is the reason I write as much about evangelism as I do about the Constitution here at DBO. Once again, it is a question of ultimate truth and ultimate reality. Mankind invents a thousand aimless aims and then mobilizes a whole movement around them, declaring them to be transcendental and absolute. This, of course, is pure nonsense. Only Christ-followership, as expressed in radical obedience to His Great Commission and radical sacrificing of our comforts for His cause, meets those criteria.
Saturday, May 17
8:08 PM Just enjoyed another excellent supper of Ethiopian food prepared by Becky and Jessie. Shortly we shall be indulging in yet another feast of after-dinner pop corn. Meanwhile I see that LRC has published yet another fine essay on pacifism. I don't really think that the pacifist position will ever be generally accepted on religious or ethical grounds, though it may be forced on the world by the logic of technological advance.
5:02 PM Whenever I cook Chinese food I use an old cast iron pot we've had forever. The secret of cast iron cooking, I think, is the buildup of grease and oil from all the times it's been used. Why do many students who have successfully negotiated the treacherous shallows of beginning Greek drown in the depths of the ocean? It's the lack of "buildup," perhaps. I think Greek gets better and better with the buildup. A newly-acquired language soon becomes a close friend and constant companion. I have established a discipline in my life of reading my Greek New Testament at least once a day. Occasionally I will preach and teach from its pages. No one can really know their Greek without reading it constantly, though many try. Just a few minutes a day may make the difference between using your Greek and losing it. That's why on Tuesday I will be offering all of my Greek students the opportunity to join the prestigious "Five Minute Greek Club." Now, there are two things you need to know about this club: there are no dues, and we never meet. But if you do sign up, you agree to translate two verses daily from your Greek New Testament throughout the summer months. The reward? That'll be up to the Lord Jesus. If you do complete the program, however, send me an email and I'll give you a firm email pat on the back in response.
1:26 PM I just finished grading my New Testament papers. There were 35 As, 22 Bs, 30 Cs, 8 Ds, and 1 F. I'll return the papers (and notebooks) on Wednesday.
10:38 AM Last night I invited Nate and Jessie to risk their digestions on Dave's Chinese cuisine and they accepted. Afterwards Becky and Jessica did handwork in the library, a picture of pure contentment. Later Nathan snuggled between them, enjoying Escape from Colditz.
10:15 AM I've just read Ron Paul's The Revolution. Excellent! It's full of generalizations, of course. I know, because I've made so many of them in my own writings that I have a personal reason to mistrust them. But it really is a good book by a good man. All we've perversely gone back on since the days of Jefferson! All the beastly things from arrogance to disgust to ennui we've invented! Abe's at the bottom of it, I suppose. I think it's he who definitely shunted us on to the wrong track. And the extraordinary difficulty of getting back on! Ron Paul attempts to recapture the pre-Big Government quality of thinking and feeling. His book springs from the same roots as the best writings of the Founders. Taken in alternative sips with Kevin Phillip's American Theocracy, The Revolution gains in intensity of flavor. Paul's the man that every budding constitutionalist should be apprenticed to. His book tempts one to go and have another look not only at the country but the very document upon which our nation was founded. One last thing: In accordance with the author's wishes, I shall no longer refer to Ron Paul as Dr. No. He is Dr. Yes -- "yes to the Constitution and to freedom" (p. 50).
9:36 AM Hans Küng, the famous German theologian, once wrote an excellent book on church reform. Few today know about it as it was published in 1972. Its brevity is refreshing (118 pages). Its relevance is obvious. Its suggestions for renewal are most practical. He believes the crisis of Christendom stems from an inadequate biblical foundation of New Testament ministry. He sees a devastating polarity between the"office" of pastors and the members of the congregation. He says that the democratization of the "laity" is both the cause of unrest in the church and its necessary remedy. He sees the rediscovery and equipping of the total membership of a congregation as essential to revival. With other theologians he maintains that the New Testament does not establish formal "offices." The office of "clergy" is not institutional. Therefore, the term "minister" can no longer be vested with clergy status. Pastors, he argues, are to be honored because they are spiritual leaders. But Christian service is as sacred when done by a layperson as when performed by an ordained seminary graduate. His book is called Why Priests? A Proposal for a New Church Ministry. If you are at all interested in a viable horizontal (rather than hierarchical or vertical) organizational structure of the church where people themselves are trained for evangelism and ministry, it is a must read.
I also recommend several tomes by Elton Trueblood, who taught for many years at Earlham College in Indiana. His books Your Other Vocation (1952), The Company of the Committed(1961), Incendiary Fellowship (1967), and Validation of the Christian Mission (1972) all refer to the enlistment of laypeople in the essential day to day witness and work of the church. I believe most of these books are available either through EBay or Amazon.
Friday, May 16
6:51 PM Those in positions of leadership in the church are not the only ones who can or should model Christian ministry and missions. Modeling also need not be formal. Jessica Black reminds us that one can be a minister by doing common activities such as grocery shopping. All it takes is a word of encouragement. An act of thoughtfulness. Sharing a testimony. All are acts of Christian service -- or can be. And the place to begin our "ministry" is right in our own communities.
1:43 PM As I witness the recovery operations taking place in China after their massive earthquake and the fearless rescue workers working to remove piles of debris, I think of the modern-day Luthers in my classes. (I won't mention your names; you know who you are.) These young theologians have come to the place in their lives where, like Luther, they seek to rescue the church by unearthing it from beneath the accumulated debris of systems of manmade creeds and formulations of belief. It was when Luther was on his knees, ascending the stairs of a shrine dedicated to a legalistic Christianity, hoary with ages of traditional interpretations, that he received a vision of the real meaning of the Christian life. He returned home to become the "evangelist" -- the "Good News bearer" -- of this recovered truth. These students of mine are, like the apostle Paul and Luther, "censer-bearers" (2 Cor. 2:14) scattering the sweet-smelling perfume of prayer, praise, and simple obedience. My response is that of W. M. Poteat who, when discussing the incarnation, suddenly interrupted himself and exclaimed, "Oh the wonder of it!" To these young Luthers I say: May your vision become always the basis of your obedience, and may your unswerving allegiance to the Christ of Christianity -- not Christendom! -- sustain you in the midst of the stormy seas and the fierce antagonisms you will have to encounter. Solus Christus! Sola scriptura!
Luther at Worms: "I can do no other!"
1:26 PM We had a delightful visit today from Dan and Dorothy Upton of Smyrna Baptist Church in Dinwiddie, VA, where I preached a revival last month. A caring ministry for material needs has begun there, and the Uptons graciously volunteered their time (and gasoline!) to bring us eyeglasses, eyeglass cases, flannel sheets, backpacks, a laptop case, clothes, and a generous monetary gift, all for Ethiopia. We chatted for a good while about how God opens our eyes to see the needy among us, and as He opens doors we simply walk through them in obedience. The Christian life is just that simple! Becky and I consider Dorothy and Dan and our other dear friends at Smyrna some of the finest "deacons" we have ever met. The Greek term diakonos, as everyone knows, is often used in the New Testament to describe a servant's work -- waiting on tables, helping others, running errands, serving. Society viewed such work as a demeaning job, humiliating to the person performing the service, but Jesus lifted those humiliating connotations and declared that it was the highest way to live. Jesus Himself said, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be deaconed, but to deacon, and to give His life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). It is this style of living that Jesus has called His followers. The essence of discipleship is to serve and to minister to others in Jesus' name. Becky and I thank God for giving Smyrna Baptist Church the heart of a caring shepherd. May the simple, ordinary service rendered today by Dan and Dorothy, and the entire Smyrna congregation, be richly rewarded by the Great Shepherd on that Day!
Carol Hege of Smyrna Baptist Church personally sewed these eyeglass cases for each of the 150 eyeglasses donated by the church. She even sent along cleaning cloths!
Thursday, May 15
7:25 PM We just hung 3 of these on the front porch. Think they'll help? With the fly infestation we're having, that is. It's of biblical proportions, believe you me. Bags of water come recommended to us from different sources, some greatly suspect. We shall see.
6:42 PM On Tuesday I had to visit my doctor to see that all of my medications were up to date in view of my foreign travels this year (malaria, etc.). I am pleased to say that my body weight has maintained itself quite nicely. We possess a fine bathroom scale here at the Hall, which I never use. I know if I am becoming overweight simply by how I look and feel. Thus the only time my weight is taken is when I enter the doctor's office, usually during my annual physical. This year my weight was 217 pds. A year ago it was exactly the same. On Tuesday I weighed in at 218 pds. (I was fully clothed in a business suit.) One day I shall probably grow fat -- but not yet please!
6:29 PM The debate over church membership continues. Insightful critiques can be found here:
I offer a few generic thoughts: (1) Whenever "church membership" rather than Christian discipleship becomes the chief focus of concern, distortions of church and ministry result. (2) Whenever the organizational character of the church is elevated, wrong emphases come into play. (3) Whenever church membership becomes an end in itself, an abhorrent "in-group" mentality arises.
I may have more comments later. Personally, I think that official church membership stultifies the dynamic principle of being the chosen people of God -- a mission that can be fulfilled only in the full participation of believers who are self-consciously the body of Christ. The book of Acts is the best documentation of this and the chief pattern for the church today. In that community of the brethren all men were of equal dignity, and each member had direct access to the Word and heart of God. Pastors exercised a priesthood that all believers possessed. They carried out their leadership functions not instead of the people butalongside them (see my essay on Phil. 1:1). Once so understood, millions of today's "church members" would have to radically change their understanding of what it means to be a Christian: servants in the church and to the world. This service is obligatory, and no one may contract in or out of it. This is so obvious it almost seems foolish to say it.
6:03 PM This came in today's mail. I would watch it tonight except that Nathan is feeling poorly and I did want to watch it without him and Jessie, not to mention Becky. Maybe tomorrow night.
6:03 PM For some strange and unknown reason (possibly only the grace of God) the papers today are of much higher quality. Well worth reading -- and for students, not badly written -- in a language bearing an appreciable resemblance to English. I'm half way there.
9:41 AM This makes me proud to live in Virginia.
7:56 AM I am finding that the hardest part of the Great Commission is not going and making disciples or even teaching but actually obeying the teachings of Jesus. In our New Testament class this semester we have encountered many of these teachings. I list a few of them here:
1) The New Testament church was not a democracy but a theocracy. Christ was its only Head.
2) Qualified elders led the church by teaching and by encouraging the ministry gifts given by the Holy Spirit to the whole church.
3) These elders were always plural and came from "among the people." They never constituted a separate class from the "laity."
4) Some of these elders were supported by the free will offerings of others, but most of them earned their living by secular employment.
5) In New Covenant Christianity the primary task of the church leaders and of every member was to see that all members were equipped for ministry.
6) The New Testament knows no call to the professional ministry. Each and every believer is called into ministry. The only "reverend" the New Testament knows is God.
7) Old Testament models of priestly leadership must not deceive us into thinking that only certain "ordained" people can "dispense the sacraments," "preach," "teach," etc. Such a concept is sacramentalism, pure and simple.
8) It was not a professional class of "missionaries" who reached the Roman world with the Gospel. It was the laity -- the whole people of God.
9) Likewise today, only if every Christian is mobilized as a missionary can the billions of unreached people in the world be evangelized. Every believer has been called to serve in the kingdom of God. Every believer has been called to expand that kingdom. And every believer is indispensable for that task.
10) The whole body together has clerical status. Thus to refer to any man as "the" minister is a practical heresy. It is to treat Christ the King as a mere figurehead, like the Queen of England. The purpose of spiritual leaders is not to bring people under their authority but rather under the authority of Christ and the Scriptures.
11) Jesus is raised and ascended, but He is neither absent nor silent.
I say all of this with some uneasiness, for I work with many professional pastors and professional missionaries around the world. The church owes much to the seminary and the mission agency. They all contribute to the equipping of the saints. But they must never be primary. No para-church organization can fulfill the ministry God has given to every believer. The New Testament anticipates the full participation of all Christians in both the work of the ministry and the evangelistic action of the church.
The only question now is: Will you be obedient? Will I?
7:45 AM A big Thursday shout out to my students who presented their papers in class yesterday -- and did a superb job: C. J. (2 Cor. 4:7-15), Paul (1 Cor. 15:12-19), Bob (Col. 3:18-4:1, Bryan (Gal. 5:1-6), Jimmy (Eph. 5:15-21), and Florence (1 Cor. 1:26-31). Next Wednesday, our last day of class, I'm giving an "exit exam" with about 200 questions over the nuts and bolts of New Testament studies. It's for fun and not for credit, of course.
7:39 AM I leave for Ethiopia in 9 days. My goal on this trip is not to teach in the capital but to take the training to the churches. In many respects the Ethiopian church has fallen into the mold of Western Christianity. An educated clergy, a stipendiary at that, has assumed all responsibility. Thankfully this trend is honestly recognized and efforts are being made to provide training for men and women in all walks of life. The doctrine of the priesthood of all believers is, I think, the greatest single hope for developing the church in Ethiopia. Restricting Christian ministry only to full-time Christian workers has decimated the Lord's army of evangelists and teachers. A reorientation of all believers, old and new, is required. Reeducation is not optional but a necessity. Without it, new Christians will only continue to imitate the passivity of church members whose only participation is attending church on Sunday. My stay in Ethiopia is going to involve me directly in implementing a policy embracing the priesthood of all believers among the churches in which Becky and I are privileged to work.
On this trip I will also engage in what Paul Benjamin once called the "walking seminar." The apostle Paul used his missionary journeys to engage in discipleship relationships (as with Barnabas, Silas, or Timothy). Likewise, in Ethiopia I will have several ministry companions, many of whom are my sons: Bereket in Gondar, David and Nigussie in Alaba, and Worku and Burje in Burji, to name just five. In Alaba I will also spend time with my son Mohammed, who is in prison for murder. Who knows what we will learn from each other? It should be a most enjoyable and profitable time.
Below: Becky and I visiting with Bereket in his hut near Gondar, along with his mother and sister.
7:25 AM Back to grading term papers, which are, I’m afraid, mostly a kind of patchwork made up of fragments more or less ingeniously stitched together and not in any sense an organic unity. But how else does one learn to write other than by writing? All the same, I’m tentatively rethinking my approach to my introductory New Testament course, for I had hoped for much better papers than I have read thus far. The only thing that deters me from changing to other kinds of assignments is the fact that I deem only one thing worse than poorly written term papers, and that is an inane, forgettable content exam.
Wednesday, May 14
6:58 PM Tonight is my night off. I continue to read omnivorously. I’ve taught myself enough Italian to read Dante, enough Dutch to read Kuyper, enough Spanish to read the contemporary Greek linguists (Jésus Peláez, Antonio Piñero, etc.). I read mostly German and French when I’m not immersed in English works. To me a good book is a thing of extraordinary beauty like an early Gothic cathedral.
6:51 PM Check out this religious map of the United States arranged according to counties. The “Bible Belt” is clearly visible. I wonder if the map includes “C & E” (Christmas and Easter) Christians. Actually, where I live the baptized pagans don’t even attend then.
6:45 PM John McCain, I confess, leaves me unmoved. There is a certain charm about the man – he is so transparent in his egoism. But he has a fearful streak of vulgarity about him, which comes out with a vengeance when he tries to defend U.S. foreign policy. How little substance in almost anything he says! He reminds me of the preacher who makes beauty in the void. It puzzles me that a man like McCain should receive so much admiration from Christian conservatives. Look at his record in Congress – cui bono? It may be mere folie de grandeur on my part, but I feel like he is a thousand miles away from reality.
6:32 PM In November I have been invited to give a lecture in a major university in a Muslim nation. I have accepted. I am engaged in a battle for the hearts and minds of men, for the furtherance of ideas rather than political boundaries or military spheres. It is a battle in which the church not only belongs but must prevail if God’s kingdom is to expand. My plea is that we invigorate our students to penetrate society not only from the bottom up but from the top down. This is one reason I always encourage my students to seek European doctorates from top-level institutions. Such students are at hand, and I thank God for each of them.
Tuesday, May 13
5:24 AM I am looking for a copy of Roland Allen's The Case for the Voluntary Clergy but can't find one. I should be most interested to see what he has to say. I imagine he makes the same points as Paul does in 1 Cor. 9 and Acts 20, only more explicitly and more intellectually stated. Allen's other books are classics, into which I have dipped from time to time. Which is sad, as his works on missions deserve to be savored and not just sampled -- at leisure and with the keenest sympathy.
5:17 AM I have a confession to make. I have pledged myself to write a chapter in a book and the truth is, deep in other work, I keep putting off and putting off the writing of it, until finally I think I will have to force myself to get it done. Does anyone else have this problem? I dare say I know it only too well. Work tends to get postponed in a most horrible way and to be jostled about by innumerable thronging pressures. Still, I am determined to maintain a spotless track record of getting my work done before my contractual deadlines. The really prodigious writers manage to make the time to write. I just plod along and get a bit tired when I try to do all that I want to do. I often wonder how the apostle Paul managed to be so active with pen and parchment. The fatigue of travel alone would probably have done me in!
5:12 AM Knowing the interest of many of my readers in homesteading and agrarianism, I must tell you this delightful little story. Nathan and Jessica drove to the big city of Raleigh the other day to visit Habitat for Humanity. Just south of the Beltline (I-440) they encountered a major traffic jam. A car had stopped in the middle of the 2 southbound lanes. The bottleneck eventually slackened a bit, and as Nathan passed the car in question he asked the driver, a lady, if she was okay. She replied with a big smile, "I'm fine. I just saved a turtle!" Welcome to city life, Jessica. Drivers are apt to be so very malevolent under the guise of altruism.
Monday, May 12
1:33 PM Mission Conviction #6:
There is no substitute for the leading of the Holy Spirit. He guides the missionary efforts of each local church and provides the answers to their most pressing questions. Shall we focus on "home" or "foreign" missions? Shall we concentrate our efforts on peoples who are "responsive" to the Gospel? Is Europe a mission field or not? Should we evangelize a tribal group whose population is decreasing? Shall we give priority to the "unreached"? There is simply no clear-cut scriptural answer to these questions! What the Bible does emphasize is that the Gospel is to be taken to people who have never heard (Rom. 10:11-15). Does that include the population of post-Christian Europe? In my opinion yes. But the crucial issue is this: It is up to every local congregation to prayerful think through these issues and then follow the direction of the Holy Spirit in settling upon their target areas. Guided by the Spirit, it can prayerfully consider its options. It can identify those in its midst who have the gift of evangelism. It can educate the entire congregation about its privileges and responsibilities for building up the Body of Christ worldwide. It can assemble and send out teams to establish new churches on its own or in cooperation with other like-minded congregations. What is of extreme importance is that each local congregation look, not to outside "experts," but to the Holy Spirit who presides in its midst. It is He who guides the church in the wise stewardship of its time, money, and personnel. It is He who motivates the congregation to obey and glorify God in all they do. It is He who makes the best "administrator" of the missions work of the church. He and He alone can motivate believers to participate in the task of church planting. It was the Holy Spirit who instructed the church to send Barnabas to Antioch. It was the Holy Spirit who directed the church at Antioch to send out Paul and Barnabas. It was the Holy Spirit who selected them, separated them for their work, and sent them forth. The church's role was to recognize and acknowledge the commissioning work of the Holy Spirit.
Thus it is through the ministry of the Holy Spirit that the work of missions is to be carried out. And it is the congregation's responsibility to see that the entire work, including the selecting and sending of missionaries, is bathed in believing prayer.
8:55 AM I have been reading P. R. Reid's Escape from Colditz with very great pleasure and sympathy. The great objective, of course, is to escape, which sounds quite charming until you realize the lengths to which one had to go to actually do it. Pat Reid is a wonderfully interesting character, and his escapades no less thrilling. In reading one certainly gets rid of a great deal of idealism with regard to that war.
Ironically, there were more allied "home runs" from Colditz Castle than from any other POW camp in Germany during WW II. So much for "escape-proof" Oflags.
8:43 AM This report over at Salon shows a pretty state of imbecility. It's not pleasant to think of the lives thrown away by the sheer folly of the politicians. The war becomes more ghastly by the day, and every day it becomes more obvious that it is a folly to go on. The quotidian gloom is a little relieved by the fact that a sensible politician has entered the presidential race. Otherwise, our national misery proceeds, and whatever happens we may be sure that it will be for the worst. I dread the inevitable acceleration of American world domination that will be the ultimate result of it all.
8:30 AM Yesterday at Mount Tirzah was full of excitement and fun. Everyone was delighted to meet Nathan's new bride.
We picked up the eyeglasses the church had been collecting.
Becky brought a "missionary moment," sharing the story of Aberash and how she was now experiencing the joys of motherhood.
Nathan played the organ and sang in the choir: "God Give Us Christian Homes."
We thoroughly enjoyed Matt's simple yet solid teaching both in Sunday School and during the main service.
Even Micah got a big kick out of Nate and Jessie's Mother's Day gift to Liz. (We can't tell you what it was. Let's just say that Liz was surprised.)
Jessica really enjoyed her nephews (and vice versa).
Nathan spent the afternoon and evening putting in new room tiles in the front bathroom.
And here's Mama B explaining to Isaac where thunder and lightening come from and how God is control of E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G.
The ladies did hand work, including Miss Jessie.
The official candle lickers performed their duties brilliantly on Mama B's birthday cake.
Meanwhile, all is very pleasant on the farm this morning. The garden grows and the sun peeks through the clouds and the flowers wave their thuribles of unseen incense across the landscape. It is like a glimpse into another world.
Sunday, May 11
7:11 AM The latest addition to our home page is Becky's Putting Sacrifice in Perspective.
7:04 AM I see Alan Knox is blogging about the Lord's Supper. I'm glad he is. The Lord's Supper is a very meaningful meal to me. It is, or ought to be, a time of great celebration anticipating the day when the Groom will receive His bride unto Himself. I think back to the Friday before Nathan and Jessica's wedding, when all was sheer joy in anticipation of the long-awaited event. The next day the groom took his bride by the hand and together they walked to their home.
Now God again is about to reach out His hand to her who waits for His touch. The celebration of the Lord's Supper is the anticipation of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. I feel like a child on the evening before the wedding. I have already seen the bridal gown and smelled the wedding flowers. The day is near! Tomorrow perhaps! Little wonder the early church celebrated the Supper every time they met. And today? The best we can do is to tack on a funereal snack as an officious addendum, curtailing the sermon of course lest we go past 12:00 noon. A kind of moldy misery clings putrefyingly around a core of exhausted apathy. Yet the Groom loves us still. What grace!
6:55 AM Last night Becky and I dined in Clarksville to celebrate her birthday, which is this Monday. Her new dress (a gift -- but not from me) is spectacularly beautiful. With every passing year she grows ever more charming and lovely. (I'l n'y a pas d'autre mot!) This afternoon we are going to Liz and Matthew's for Mother's Day dinner after spending the morning with them at Mount Tirzah Baptist Church in Charlotte Courthouse, where Matthew shepherds. Nathan and Jessie will be going with us -- or rather, we will be going with them, as Nathan will be driving and pulling a trailer load of cedars to the Rondeaus.
Saturday, May 10
3:47 PM When I walk down to the mailbox I usually take the camera with me. I have never seen Rosewood look more beautiful than it appears today. Here are Lady Jessica's goats.
This hay field is just about ready to be cut and baled. The Lord Jesus, who upholds all things by His powerful word, has sent just the right amount of rain and sunshine so far this year. It is beyond me how a farmer can be an atheist.
The great stare-down.
Here at the farm we enjoy both edibles and adorables.
Oh, my little owl friends are still around, despite the wind storm we had the other night. We've noticed that mama owl visits her chillens at dusk. Sweet.
3:27 PM I've got good news and I've got good news. The first piece of good news is that Becky has finished her project. The second item of good news is that the lap top is now free for me to review the VCDs of my entire beginning Greek course that we videotaped in Addis Ababa a few summers ago. I am almost finished with my review, and all I can say is that our editor in Dallas has done a superb job. Once my review is complete we will let everybody know how you can get your own copies. I will personally contact the dozens of you who have expressed an interest in the series via email. I am very excited to see this project nearing completion. If you are studying Greek, whether in a classroom setting, at home, or abroad, I pray that these VCDs can help you to master the wonderful language of the New Testament. Remember, too: a third edition of my beginning grammar, Learn to Read Testament Greek, will appear next March along with a major workbook.
1:02 PM Today Becky hopes to finish a project she's been working on for the past 3 days straight.
She's working with an Amharic word processor, typing English script to produce Amharic font onto a movie/video edit program to produce a good evangelistic CD for showing with our Jesus Films, etc. The print is so small on the page that she needs a magnifying glass to see it. No wonder why so many elderly believers in Ethiopia need glasses to read their Bibles.
I'd say she's put in at least 25 hours on this one project for Ethiopia. Becky has also completed her final report about her trip this year to help Aberash have her baby. It's called "Putting Sacrifice in Perspective." I'll publish it tomorrow, on Mother's Day (that's appropriate, don't you think?). It's a fantastic essay!
12:36 PM Be sure to read J. H. Huebert's review of Ron Paul's manifesto at the Orange County Register. And if you like the review, be sure to click the "recommend" button to increase its readership.
9:45 AM Mission Conviction #4:
To many people the term "mission" implies a foreign dimension. We speak of "going" to the mission field as if missions is merely an activity of the church rather than part of its essential being. For many, "missions" is something done overseas in places where the church does not yet exist. To my way of thinking, however, the missionary frontier is not primarily geographical but universal. Mission is centrifugal -- it always moves outward from its center, wherever that center might be. The field is the world, and all of its parts are tied together in such a way that does not allow us to focus on one part to the exclusion of the others. In other words, the mandate to "go into all the world" has no exclusion zones. Mission from everywhere to everywhere is how the church expands. The key is that our churches become outward looking. Witness begins where one is and expands outward from there. It is thus dangerous and misleading, in my view, to distinguish "home" from "foreign" missions. Where non-Christians are geographically close we must call them into fellowship with Christ and His church. Where they are not, we must cross geographical and cultural barriers to call them into fellowship with Christ and His church. Missions is so much at the heart of the church's life that it should permeate all of our thinking and planning, wherever we live on this planet. That's why in the bio on my website I refer to Becky and me as self-supporting missionaries to Mecklenburg County Virginia and Ethiopia. I suppose I could have mentioned a good many other places and countries that we visit annually, but I think people get the point.
Mission Conviction #5:
Some missionists insist that the highest priority today must be to win "unreached" peoples -- those who are the furthest removed from active Christians geographically. This is a logical position. But is it Scriptural? In Europe, for example, where I have lived and where I have taught many times, there are millions of professing Christians who are lost. They need the Gospel every bit as much as the hidden unreached peoples of the world. In fact, the church is perhaps healthier and is propagating itself at a more rapid rate in Asia, Africa, and Latin America than in Eastern or Western Europe. European Christianity does not need revival; it needs regeneration. I would hope, then, that every missions-minded congregation in the U.S. would get involved in missions in every category of outreach -- locally, regionally, globally, and cross-culturally (Acts 1:8). I strongly encourage my own students to consider Europe as a viable -- indeed a desperately needy -- missionary opportunity. (See Europe Is Still a Mission Field.)
9:32 AM Next week we welcome a family of 5 from Kentucky to Bradford Hall for a week-long retreat. Frequently I use the farm for the same purpose, sort of a retreat within a retreat. When I do, I feel a great peace and inner quietude. I am free to give much time to Scripture reading, prayer, and just a quiet way of living. Occasionally I feel guilty that I am not working but I realize that these guilty feelings are false and that I should not act on them. But just as I am convinced that I belong here at the farm, I am convinced that I should leave it often, which I will do again exactly two weeks from today when I fly off to the African continent, my second home.
9:25 AM Last night we listened to Brahm's German Requiem, which I had ordered on Amazon. It is a work of extraordinary power and depth and at the same time of extraordinary subtlety -- of a composer who is an artist of exceptional refinement and musical purity. It makes great demands on the listener, nothing less than one's whole mind at the highest pitch of attention. Becky and I sat stunned at the power of the refrain, "Lord, Thou art worthy of honor and praise and glory and power!" It brings tears to one's eyes. What is needed now, I feel, is an acceptable translation of the music into tangible acts of obedience on my part.
9:13 AM Yesterday the daring duo entered the farm's nerve center and updated their blog. Pictures too! By the way, I was glad to notice that Mrs. Black uses the two-finger method of typing that I am so proficient in. It's also, of course, the only truly biblical method of typing ("Seek and ye shall find").
Friday, May 9
6:21 PM Just finished grading another 20 papers. Took me most of the day. Today the grades ranged from an F (0) to an A+ (100). Most were B's and C's. The paper that received a zero contained not one legible sentence and dozens and dozens of misspellings. I had to scratch my head, in that I require students to check a box that says "Carefully proofread for spelling and grammar" before turning in their papers. This box had been checked by the student.
5:27 PM Becky has spoken by phone with the church leadership in Burji. Here's the latest on the warring going on between the Gujis and the Burjis. Gun battles continue and people are being wounded and killed. The main road into Burji is, we are told, accessible at times; a cease-fire of sorts has taken place along the highway. Still, the Burji church leaders do not think it is practical for me to get to them as things stand now. Another problem is the lack of electricity to the city of Soyama, where the church is based. Power was off for two weeks due to the lack of hydro-electrical generation as a result of the severe drought all Ethiopia has experienced. Phone and email communication has thus been affected. It is evident that these issues will need to resolved to a degree before I will be able to make the trek out to the nomads in that region, which is my goal. This is a real problem but one that our Lord can resolve before I am due to arrive in Burji on June 15th. Personally, I am willing and able to go despite the problems and dangers, but I must defer to the counsel and decision of the church leadership (photo), as we have always done. Meanwhile I am praying that the believers there might experience the feeling of "having seen the Lord" in the midst of their trials and feel a new strength to face the struggles of everyday living.
1:55 PM The Baldwin 2008 website is now up and running.
1:20 PM Newsflash! I'm not the only person who enjoys taking pictures of Nathan and Jessica. Here's proof.
1:12 PM I don't know why, but I've been thinking a good deal about missions of late. Time rushes past as though it were trying to win the Breeder's Cup, and goodness knows when I will have the opportunity to record my miscellaneous thoughts in the future. Might I share them with you on this blog, beginning today? You will quickly see that I am no expert on the subject. These convictions are simply the product of a "lay" missionist and conclusions drawn from his own personal Bible study. Here they are, then, in no particular order of importance. Each entry will be prefaced by the words "Mission Conviction." I begin today with the following 3:
Mission Conviction #1:
The church, not the missions organization, is God's primary instrument in this world. Perhaps, then, the time has come to stop out-sourcing church planting to para-missions entities. This is not to downplay the role of those who are specially gifted in evangelism or church planting. These evangelists and church planters, however, are to work primarily with and through the local churches. Imagine the impact the church could have on the world if every local congregation saw itself as God's missionary organization. "Missions" would come to mean more than sending money to support missionaries and missions programs. Nor would we continue to use the term "missionary" to refer to professionals who are paid workers. The term missionary, if used, would be given its biblical sense of "representative of God in the world" (apostolos). In the scriptural sense, all Christians are missionaries, and all are to be involved personally in missionary discipleship in service to the world. That's why I often introduce myself to people, not as a professor of Greek, but as a "full-time missionary." Now, I am not with a para-mission organization. Nor am I paid to be a missionary. So people ask, "How then can you call yourself a full-time missionary?" We must change this way of thinking. There must be a significant move away from a paternalistic attitude towards the "laity," with a growing recognition of their importance in bringing the Gospel to our communities and to the world. According to the New Testament, ministry is not the prerogative of an elite corpus. It is not the function only of seminary-trained professionals. It is the function of the whole people of God. Thus every Christian shares the mission of the church both through personal witness and missions activities. This participation is irrespective of sex, age, gender, social standing, or academic achievement.
Mission Conviction #2:
This is an implication of #1. It is my personal opinion that we can no longer justify theological training that aims only at making "laypersons" into professional missionaries. Rather, theological education must aim at mobilizing all the people of God for ministry in the world. In light of 1 Pet. 2:9 and Eph. 4:11-12, we much change our definition of ordination to include the setting apart of the whole people of God for "works of service." In our seminaries, I believe it would make a very great difference if we were to recognize that the New Testament, from beginning to end, was written by missionaries for missionaries. It is critical to view the missionary mandate of Christ as the foundation upon which the entire work of Christian education rests. Missions acts, then, or at least should act, as the one encompassing task of Christian theology and community. Why, then, should "missions" be relegated to a missions and evangelism "department"? Such is to imply only a peripheral importance. Our goal in Christian education must be to incorporate the mission thrust of Jesus into all of our subjects. I can envision the day when trained "experts" are wedded to local churches rather than only to academic institutions. Together the whole body -- trained theologians and untrained practioners -- would join in the process of theologizing and missionizing. The object is for each local church to "hold forth the life-giving Word" (Phil. 2:16) in a way that people will know why and how they should turn to this new Lord Jesus Christ.
Mission Conviction #3:
This also implies that the theological task in our seminaries must go beyond the classroom. That is, God's plan for contextualized missions is rendered inoperable when academics fail to think in such a way that their theology comes across accurately in their lives. God never intended theology to be divorced from life. In our day, such a divorce has become a major problem within Western Christianity. We must reconnect the academy with the church. We seminary professors, whatever our area of expertise, need to live missions, not just talk about it. As with Paul, the Gospel must become the one passion of our lives. "What am I here for?" might serve as a good daily reminder to those of us who serve as academics in our colleges and seminaries. We so easily lose sight of the reason for our existence: to further the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a matter of keeping first things first (Phil. 1:27). And ultimately that mission belongs to the church, not the seminary. The church alone is permanent, and it alone can provide the permanent structure for evangelism and service. This is one reason why in our own mission work Becky and I work primarily with local churches and not with larger denominational structures. It is also why we attempt to link local church to local church between the U.S. and Ethiopia. Already several American congregations have decided to partner with their Ethiopian counterparts to further the work of the kingdom. This is because they have come to realize that the local church is God's center for mission strategies and outreach activities. In November we will again be taking a team of 15 of them to meet up with their sister congregations. And more and more churches are getting involved.
These are just 3 of my personal convictions about missions that God has laid upon my heart recently. Lord willing, I'll have an opportunity to share a few more with you later. I leave you with some pictures of last year's Team Ethiopia. Here's the group from Bethel Hill Baptist Church in Roxboro, NC.
And these 5 intrepid souls represented Union Chapel Baptist Church and Tabernacle Baptist Church in Virginia to their sister churches in the Muslim region of Alaba.
Jason taught the entire book of Ephesians in a single week to the men of the Burji district. When he got to chapter 5 there was a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit as the men repented of the ways they had failed to truly love their wives.
Danny's personal ministry was loving on the children of Burji. The median age in Ethiopia is 17, and children and youth are as numberless as ticks and about as tenacious.
Sherree taught a woman's Bible study to packed audiences in the villages we visited. Her technique of using role-playing was a novelty to these ladies but well-received.
Miss Mary focused on discipling the younger women. Here she is teaching them how to sew. Mary was 80 years old when she made this, her first trip outside of the United States. I can still see her walking down the streets of Soyama and the people saying, "God must love us very much if He would tell this dear lady to leave all the comforts of America to come and visit us." Miss Mary is my hero.
Keep in mind that none of these missionaries went to Ethiopia merely as "individuals" taking a "short-term missions trip." They went as apostles -- personal representatives of their own local churches to their sisters churches in order to strengthen and deepen the ties that already existed. Once again, Becky and I see missions as church to church, not denomination to denomination. If you would like to see more pictures of Ethiopia and read our detailed reports, please go to our Ethiopia Files.
11:56 AM News and Notes:
1) Last night Jessie invited us over for supper. She cooked meat loaf, carrots, and the best cornbread I think I have ever eaten. Afterwards we enjoyed popcorn and chatted. Becky and I are so grateful to the Lord Jesus for giving us such a wonderful daughter and such a perfect companion for Nathan. An excellent hostess, too!
2) It was a wild night. We were under a tornado watch the whole time. The tempest and fury of the storm were heart-stopping. No damage that I can see, thankfully. Right now the sun is shining brightly. Sheppie, no doubt, thinks he chased away Thor by all of his barking.
3) Back to my term papers today. So far the grades have ranged from A to F. After 31 years in this business, I can usually tell when someone is "pumping sunshine."
4) Here they come!
Thursday, May 8
8:03 PM Ten papers down, only 90 to go.
3:57 PM It has been a quiet day here at the farm. I have been mostly resting, trying to recover completely from my cold, while Becky has been working on various Ethiopia projects. I have to admire the work she does. It takes hours for her to chew over the tangled logistics of our trips to Ethiopia and the numerous projects we are involved in. I would ask for special intercession with regard to the medical clinic we hope to open this fall in Burji. The facility is much like a freshly conceived embryo. Your prayers through gestation and delivery, until viability and maturity, would be greatly appreciated.
3:44 PM Over at USA Daily, Izzy Lyman reminds us why Chuck Baldwin is no Mike Huckabee. Not that the mainstream media will take any notice. Those like Chuck who do not "conform" are irrelevant except to the degree that they justify the existence of those who do. The beatnik is necessary to make the square unimpeachably respectable. How sad.
12:39 PM This past week I was inundated with emails. I believed I have answered all of them, but I have this sixth sense that one or two might have been overlooked for some reason. My policy is to answer all of my emails with 24 hours (or less) unless I am traveling. So, if you have emailed me in the past week but have not received a reply, kindly send me another email and I will do my very best to see that you get an answer in a timely manner. Thanks.
10:58 AM A huge "Mahalo!" to those who presented their papers in class yesterday: Rachael W. (Heb. 3:7-19), Andy B. (1 Cor. 3:10-20), Nathan S. (2 Thess. 2:1-12), and Andy M. (1 Tim. 6:2-10). Rachael reminded us that the best way to remain faithful to Christ is by encouraging one another daily. Andy asked, Are we building the church of Christ with worldly building materials and according to cultural standards or by the wisdom of Christ? Nathan noted how in the end times men will refuse to love the truth, and that the best way of waiting for the parousia is by resisting sin. Finally, Andy emphasized that we are to be content with food and clothing and not to be like the false teachers who are motivated by greed and who try to use "godliness" for financial gain. Next week there will be six presenters. My heartfelt thanks to each.
Meanwhile, today I begin grading the class's 15-page term papers, all 100 of them (photo). Contrary to what one might expect, this is a thoroughly enjoyable experience for me as I get to read the results of thousands of hours of diligent labor on the part of my wonderful students.
9:42 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Redestined to Be a 4-Point Missionist.
9:40 AM I just received these books from Amazon. The classic hardback on Colditz cost me a grand total of 99 cents. It is in excellent condition. Someday I hope to visit Colditz and Spangenberg Castles in Germany, both of which functioned as POW camps during the Second World War.
9:34 AM Must-read blog entry: Steve Sensenig on the heart of the Gospel. A sample:
So, the heart of the gospel? We are reconciled to God through Christ! The gospel is not a weapon with which to threaten people. It’s not a guilt trip to make people feel awful about their lives in ignorance of the good news. It’s not a call for behavior modification. It’s not a sales pitch. It’s not a way to build our own human empires. It’s the good news of a loving Father with whom mankind had a relationship that was severed, which relationship has now been restored!
9:30 AM The dogs are always happy to see Master Nathan whenever he shows up at the Hall. Know what? So am I.
9:22 AM Can a sentence end with a conjunction? The answer is clearly yes, as this Language Log entry proves. (An example from German is aber.) Indeed, many would argue that the book of Mark in the New Testament ends in a conjunction (16:8). In my book Perspectives on the Ending of Mark (which is due out Sept. 1), both Dan Wallace and Darrell Bock side with the consensus of textual scholars in supporting the shorter ending. Others would include the last twelve verses as authentic, I being among them. One might think that an article like the one linked to above adds support to the shorter ending view, but we shouldn’t let that mislead us into underestimating the evidence in favor of the longer ending.
9:14 AM I have really become attached to my good buddy Mr. Owl. Yesterday I found his brother hiding under our upstairs porch chairs. He snarled at me in owlese until I left him alone.
9:10 AM The church is a collegium of the laity, by the laity, and for the laity. The church is for the whole community. It is not only for the individual. The Body of Christ is a social movement. It aims at influencing the whole society and its institutions and ideas. It does this by selfless acts of service in the name of Jesus. All do not grasp this truth to the same degree, but here’s one man who does. I am now convinced more than ever that a higher percentage of men and women like him will cry out for these ultimate issues given the challenge. A goodly number will drink from that grandly flowing stream of Jesus and His apostles. These young men and women in their twenties and thirties are badly needed.
9:05 AM Magazine evangelism.
Wednesday, May 7
8:03 PM When Nate and Jessie showed up at Bradford Hall they were wearing their "traditional" clothes -- gifts from their brothers and sisters in Ethiopia.
After they changed into more comfortable dinner attire we enjoyed the injera and wat that Becky had cooked to perfection.
As is customary, we ate with our hands, using the injera as a sop with which to pick up the various main courses. Ethiopian food not only tastes good, it looks good.
7:11 PM This day just keeps getting better and better. Becky has finished cooking Ethiopian food for supper, and the Blacks have arrived to join in the festivities. Gotta run....
6:56 PM The Evangelical Manifesto was released today. I suspect I am not alone in doubting whether it will have any influence on American politics. It’s like spreading cold cream on cancer. And, unlike supporters of the Barmen Declaration, it will cost its signatories absolutely nothing. If you do take the time to read the 20-page manifesto, be sure you also read Sheldon Richman’s Statecraft Is Not Soulcraft.
6:44 PM Guess what I saw when I got home today? Nathan baling hay. As soon as he finished, Jessie drove the van and trailer and Nate and I picked up.
In my opinion, no task is "farmier" than haying. Nate has already sold this cutting to a regular customer down in Carolina.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this makes Wednesday, May 7, 2008 a very historic day at Rosewood Farm. Nathan and Jessica Black got up their very first load of hay as a married couple. Sound the trumpet in Zion!
In other news, Nate and Jess visited with the Terry family in Franklin yesterday and brought back with them this cutie pie. The kitten will go to a family in Oxford.
Tuesday, May 6
5:45 AM We're getting somewhere. My students have convinced me. I speak with a good many of them who are throwing off the bonds of selfish individualism that mummify the Body and paralyze our people into thinking only about my salvation and about my soul and about my Christ. They are allowing God into their private lives, as 1 John and James and Jude teach them to do. Organizational self-appraisal no longer dominates their conversations. They are reexamining their crowded programs. Emphasis is being properly placed on personal sanctity. Programs to arouse pride impress them no more. They are no longer ignoring the pressing social issues of our changing society: corrupt politics, education without God, the welfare state, militarism, the gnarled problems created by the professionalization of the "ministry" -- how many more issues could I mention? Their reading of the Scriptures -- not the mere words of famous American pop-theologians but the Word of God itself -- has shaken their complacency, shocked the status quo. Now Christ is more important than Christendom. One student even told me he's leaving seminary to get a job in a secular field so that he could begin "full-time Christian ministry." Vital bonds between church and world are being formed. "I was naked and you clothed Me!" They are acting for Christ, striving to keep Him warm. Above all, they are becoming Gospelers. Evangelism is now a lifestyle, not something to do on Tuesday nights.
Yes, the road is long, but I dare say we're getting somewhere.
Monday, May 5
5:17 PM Tonight is our meeting with those in the Roxboro area who are interested in going to Burji with us this fall. The trip involves a number of complex factors, so the meeting will not be a short one. How many people will show up? How many will want to go? Dozens perhaps. But we'll have to be selective: only 10 can come with us this time. Speaking personally, I am as excited about this trip as any I've made to Africa. I often feel homesick for Ethiopia with its pains and problems, and its great potential.
5:12 PM Our owlet is back. I found him in the front yard nibbling on a Japanese beetle. Now he's resting in the flower bed. What can I understand about him in a glance so fleeting? What is he thinking? Where is his mother? How does he survive? What a miracle of creation!
5:08 PM Today I let out into the yard a bumble bee that was trapped in our screened-in back porch. Why shouldn't it be allowed to enjoy this beautiful day?
4:48 PM Becky and I left the house yesterday morning at 8:00 am and returned at 11:00 pm. We drove over 300 miles. When we set out we were fatigued and fighting allergies and head colds. Yet God was close to us. His strength in the midst of our weakness was very real. The weaker we grew, the more of His strength we seemed to experience. We found it profoundly inspiring to be with God's people from 5 different congregations: Immanuel Baptist Church, Greensboro Chinese Christian Church, Ethiopian Christians Fellowship Church, Antioch Baptist Church, and Goldston Baptist Church. To think -- the church is the place where Christ chooses to dwell, to create the space where His glory can manifest itself! All day long we felt His presence in our lives, yet in such a quiet, unobtrusive, elusive way. Praise be to God.
Pix, of course.
Saturday, May 3
5:45 PM Food, fun, fellowship, fishing, frolicking, family, fantastic. Here are a few pix.
8:37 AM Look at what we just found sitting in our front yard. Becky went over to pick it up and throw it away, thinking it was a clump of my hair!
8:26 AM Jon Glass heard Ron Paul at Duke last night. Here's his report.
8:22 AM More and more I am seeing how in reality the "good," the "kind," the "loving" intention of government bears fruit in real evil, cruelty, inhumanity, and hate. Every year that I live makes this more and more clear to me. A man who has come to terms with this awful reality is Chuck Baldwin, the Constitution Party nominee for president of "these United States" (as Chuck likes to put it). Chuck recently laid out his platform, as it were, inthis essay. He shows how the roots of our political problems run very deep, so deep that few of us can humbly acknowledge how far we have fallen as a nation. In the end, Chuck's cause is the cause of all liberty-loving Americans who believe in limited, constitutional government. As a matter of fact, by showing that the "righteous" conscience of the nation in fact masks a brutal and cruelly unjust hegemony, Chuck is calling the nation to repentance. I say Amen and Amen to his message, and I pray that it gets through and strikes home.
8:13 AM In Greek, the "penult" is the accent mark before the last one. Earthly life is "penultimate" in the sense that it derives its dignity, its seriousness, its meaning from its weddedness to the coming of Christ and His judgment seat of rewards. My talks tomorrow will emphasize this truth. I love His appearing, and I want to be living each day with eternity in view. At the same time, the simple joys of this present life prepare us, in gratitude and hope, to enter into His kingdom. One such joy for Becky and me is our semi-annual Student Day, a time for my students and their families to enjoy one another's company and the beauty of nature. Term papers are due next week, and we are not expecting a very large crowd, but each and every person who shows up today is very special to us. Thank God for penultimate days like this.
Friday, May 2
5:02 PM This Sunday I've been asked to "preach" at a couple of churches in North Carolina. I have almost come to loath that word. Just as people can watch spellbound a circus performer tumbling through the air in a tight rubber costume, so they can listen to a "preacher" who uses the Bible to draw attention to himself. Especially if his sermon is "well-crafted." I have known a good many preachers who in many ways seemed quite frivolous in their exaggerated and confused enthusiasms. The problem is that a sensational preacher stimulates only the senses and leaves the spirit untouched. I usually pray before I speak, "God, you speak and help me get out of the way." I really mean it. I don't feel I have anything unique to say. Usually I just verbalize what people already know in their heart to be true. I think it's all very unsensational, actually. Yes, I'm very glad to "preach" in churches week after week. But I really just talk about what the text is saying -- a text that transcends time and place and unifies us with the one God who is Father of all believers in all places and all times.
4:36 PM If you haven't heard from me yet today it's for a very good reason. No sooner did Becky and I finish our morning cup of coffee than we were outside in nature. Yesterday B. had already planted her backyard garden: green beans, yellow beans, squash, green peppers, and banana peppers.
Here's the new-fangled irrigation system she's trying out this year. She's so excited about her garden, and I dare say she should be. After all, this summer she gets to stay home and tend to it while I'm in Ethiopia.
And here's what we managed to plant today in our field garden before our aching backs grave out on us: marigolds and onions as a border, beets, a variety of beans (green, pole, yellow, lima), and okra. Right now Becky's gone off to the store to buy some tomato plants. But I don't think they'll get planted today.
Thursday, May 1
9:04 PM Guess what we got today? Becky's new injera cooker. (A birthday present from yours truly.) She plans to try it out tomorrow. If she succeeds, we'll be having injera b'wat for supper. Ain't nothin' better.
8:58 PM The sowers went out to sow....
Becky and I hope to plant our garden tomorrow.
2:09 PM The latest addition to our home page is called A Message from Aberash and Tilahun.
1:55 PM Students, a reminder that I am happy to look at the structural analysis for your term paper and to answer any other questions you may have. I will answer your emails as quickly as I can.
1:43 PM I couldn't resist snapping this pic of the newlyweds spreading manure on their vegetable garden in preparation for planting. Nate's going to disc it up this afternoon I believe. What a blast watching those two work together.
1:36 PM Along with thousands of other Constitution-loving Americans I have ordered Ron Paul's The Revolution, 3 copies in fact. Sometimes books encourage a sort of collective daydreaming and create a world in which to escape. Hopefully, Paul's manifesto will lead to new aspirations and new motivations to face reality now and to work in unity for a return to constitutional government. Apparently God has not withdrawn Himself totally from our nation -- yet.
8:02 AM Great miracles continue to happen in the city of Gondar in northern Ethiopia. On Easter Sunday (which was observed last weekend in the Ethiopian calendar) the churches bonded together to feed the street people of the city. This morning we received a wonderful report and photo from the beloved disciples there:
The Ethiopian Easter was on Sunday 27 April 2008 and as you know we invited the home less (street) people of our city. Around 150 people came to eat their Lunch. The place was in _____ church compound. We built a simple tent that can protect us from direct sunlight. This church is relatively found at the center of the city. So it was ideal to invite the street boys and girls.As they gathered we introduced ourselves; serve them lunch and soft drinks. The food was spicy, made of beef and tasty. We enjoyed it together. “He did good, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” Acts 14:17. Soon after we eat our lunch, a guy preached the word of God from John 3:14-18 and Acts 4:12. All the street people heard the Gospel Message; Praise God! Mark 16:15.After the preaching, when they are asked to accept Jesus Christ as their savior, 10 of them accept in front of us and made decision for Jesus. More over 5 of the street boys remain after the program and accept Jesus as their savior. Totally 15 people accept Jesus as their savior. Praise Lord, let all the glory be to Him!!! Finally we gave them clothes and let them go
We are rejoicing!!! Please rejoice with us!! The word of God says “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine Just persons who need no repentance.” Luke15:7.All these 15 new believers are given to ______ church evangelists to start them discipleship courses. I believe most of them will complete their discipleship training.
This report is so marvelous I am speechless. I feel as though I have just read Acts 2:43-47.
7:33 AM I appreciate everyone who has responded to Becky's wish list for Ethiopia. Our nation is affluent and has more than it needs. The realization that what we have is a free gift from God can deepen our desire to share this gift with others who are calling out for help. Unless we share the harvest with others, the blessing turns into a curse. Thinking about all of this, I realize that I am still obsessed by desires that are not wrong in themselves but are inappropriate because they are in the wrong place in the hierarchy of values. How much more could I do for others if I were motivated by the Christ-mind of Phil. 2:5-8!
7:30 AM Friends and comrades! Watch this interview with presidential nominee Chuck Baldwin as he talks about why he’s running and what he hopes to accomplish. (His acceptance speech can be viewed here.) Double kudos to Chuck.
7:25 AM Izzy Lyman is back, this time praising America’s youthful trailblazers. Check thisout also. It is a joy to read essays like hers. Go Izzy!
7:20 AM Below is a portrait of me executed over 2,000 years ago in a previous incarnation. To think that it's been over 3 decades since I studied Greek and prepared my first translations from 1 John! And now my sincere and passionate students are doing this for me. The difficulty, of course, is putting myself in their shoes. Otherwise I might do more harm than good in assigning too much work, expecting meat-eaters when a galactic diet is more suitable. I do hope we can at least sight-read the entire book book of 1 John in class before the end of the semester. How wholeheartedly I agree with the apostle John when he says that the Christian life is to be a lifestyle of conformity to the will of God (1:5-10). Or at least not being a charlatan and an actor when it comes to Christianity. I loathe the thought of a student taking my Greek courses and not being knocked in the head by a good dose of fertile truth. It gave me goose bumps to see my students in class on Tuesday with their Greek New Testaments open for the first time, reading and translating from 1 John -- the first fruits of their labors these past two semesters. There are only two lessons to go in our grammar and we're done. Actually, we've only just begun. A foundation exists for only one reason, and that is to lay a superstructure on top of it. I do hope each and every one of my students will take third semester Greek this fall even though I will be on sabbatical. At any rate, they've worked very hard to get to this point. I just want to say "Thanks."
7:13 AM Quote du jour:
Whereas the sinner lives in sin and loves it, the saint lapses into sin and loathes it. He cannot, being a sheep, enjoy the filth which the hog rolls in.