Saturday, July 26
7:34 AM I leave for Knoxville in a few minutes. It's a lovely day and I look forward to the drive. For some reason my mind races to that great promise of our God, that if we seek His kingdom in the first place (and not the second or the third) and His righteousness, all these other things will be given to us as well. God has proven this to me over and over again this summer. Trials there have been, but I have never been happier in the Lord's work. I am learning to wait upon Him for help and blessing. I am looking less and less to my own ability. The brethren are a constant encouragement to me (including you, my blogging buddies). Through grace I am learning to depend on Him alone. Soon I will return to Europe, Asia, and Africa to assist the brethren. I will not miss America very much; I have become too much of a pilgrim and stranger on this earth for that. I am eager to share Jesus' love with the poor, as I did with these prisoners in Ethiopia last June. O, how God loves these people!
Amazingly, I am at the close of my 31st year of teaching. Lord willing, I've got 10 or 15 years of strength ahead of me to toil in the classroom. My sabbatical has just started and I already miss teaching. But the Lord has been so good to me. He has wonderfully blessed our farm. This year He crowned the prayers of Nathan's parents by providing him with a helper and friend whom we love and cherish. Now, at last, the Lord has filled our life with every blessing, each of them undeserved. He has done far beyond what I could have expected in granting me the opportunity to teach and write and preach and travel. Even in difficult times, His grace has been enough. Even in Ethiopia, where no sooner is one demand met than another arises, God is faithfully providing for every care through the generosity of His people.
Forgive me for rambling, but this morning I am so impressed with the loving interest that the Father has shown in me and my family that I can't help but say so. A great work of the Spirit has begun in my heart. The Gospel burns like fire within me. I live for nothing else. May God so bless my teaching that my students in Tennessee will leave the course more in love than ever with the Great Author and Subject of the New Testament, our reigning and returning Lord Jesus!
Friday, July 25
5:20 PM In case you're curious, here's the one quote I use from Greg Boyd's The Myth of a Christian Nation (p. 30). I think it's a classic.
This, in a nutshell, is the primary thing God is up to in our world. He’s not primarily about getting people to pray a magical “sinner’s prayer” or to confess certain magical truths as a means of escaping hell. He’s not about gathering together a group who happen to believe all the right things. Rather, he’s about gathering together a group of people who embody the kingdom – who individually and corporately manifest the reality of the reign of God on the earth. And he’s about growing this new kingdom through his body to take over the world.
4:54 PM Go Nathan!
Man, that Jessie is some photographer. Only problem is: we have so much lumber now that we just HAVE to build us somethin'.
2:44 PM Whew! Just roughed out the entire first draft of my final chapter. I'm exhausted but the juices were really flowing so I couldn't stop writing. Here's a shot of the madness in progress:
And here's what everything looks like after it goes into the pooter and comes out of the printer. What a metamorphosis.
Right now it's off to the local sawmill to get some lumber with Nathan. He needs the help. I need the break.
7:15 AM Here's the scene that greeted me this morning as I sat on the front porch sipping coffee and reading my Bible. Talk about a light show.
I'm in Romans, and this verse hit me square between the eyes: "I'm also convinced that you have all the knowledge you need and that you are able to instruct each other" (15:14). They must have had seminaries in Rome, I guess. Or at least Bible Colleges. Well, maybe just a lay institute., Where did these Christians get all this knowledge? Just read the epistle. We clearly see the relationship between obedience and knowledge. An education, even a good one, can never be a substitute for obedience. Neither can prayer. Along with education and prayer there is a need to take action. We must take on attitudes of humility, openness, and teachability. We must develop the right way of thinking by delving deep into the Scriptures. As Tozer (I believe) once said, "The fellowship of God is delightful beyond all telling." Whether you have a Ph.D. or a modest education, have you taken time to feed on His Word today? Are you, am I, "able to instruct each other?"
Thursday, July 24
8:45 PM B & H Academic just sent me the new cover for my beginning grammar. A tip of the kepi to their art department. I think it's a winner.
8:30 PM What a great day it's been. And to top it all off, Becky and I just enjoyed some ice cream on the front porch. The weather is gorgeous. There's even a little taste of fall in the air. This evening I read in one sitting Greg Boyd's The Myth of A Christian Nation. You MUST get it and read it. I did a lot of underlining and even found one quote that I HAVE to include in my book. Speaking of which, I am determined to finish my last chapter between now and next Saturday. It will be a challenge because, unlike the other chapters, this one will be somewhat autobiographical. Not a tell-all, but still a tell-much. It's been quite a journey and I hope to share with you some of the excitement! In the meantime I have to read the final page proofs of my book on the ending of Mark (due Monday) and prep for my class next week. Right now, though, I am going to kick up my feet and finish Free as a Running Fox -- for the millionth time.
O, Sheba is as fat as an elephant. Everyone is starting to guess her due date. I'm betting she gives birth next Friday.
And one more thing. As I watched the jets this evening cruising by at 29,000 feet in the blue sky I thought to myself, "There's someone up there doing his or her job piloting that aircraft. We're both earning our livings. I'm sitting here with my notepad and pen, he or she is sitting in an aluminum tube charged with the responsibility of getting 230 people safely to their destination. The main thing is that we're both enjoying our work to the hilt.
7:59 AM How Reformed is brother Lionel? A must read. Here's a teaser:
I believe in a pure consensus ecclesiology. I believe in a plurality of Elders with all Elders being equal. Not to mention that these elders are equal with the body (Matthew 23). I believe in elder oversight not elder rule (as we think of the term rule). I believe that everyone has an equal voice within the assembly. If we truly hold to James 4:1-3, and Philippians 2:1-11 much of what we do could be solved very quickly (I had to learn this by personal experience quite recently actually).
7:53 AM 2,000.
7:30 AM Fuller Seminary blogs.
UPDATE: So does Asbury.
6:55 AM As I said, Becky and I spent the evening with our friends Sudie and Carolyn from Tabernacle Baptist Church. Both served with us in Alaba last year and are eager to return. They have an incurable love for Ethiopia and Ethiopians. Becky, by the way, is sporting the dress she sewed on her new machine. It takes her about one day to sew an entire dress. Amazing.
Today our daughter Liz and the boys are coming for a visit. Never a dull moment at Rosewood.
Wednesday, July 23
10:17 PM Becky and I enjoyed a delightful night out with two close friends (photos tomorrow). Right now the rain is falling, a lovely soaking sent straight from Heaven. Our crops and hay fields are getting a real boost from the warm weather and the rain showers. Governor William Bradford (Becky's ancestor -- hence "Bradford Hall") once proclaimed a day of prayer and fasting to thank God for giving them desperately needed rain. I therefore declare the next 24 hours "Thanksgiving," at least in this tiny corner of Virginia.
5:10 PM The legacy of George Eldon Ladd is remembered here.
It was Ladd who once and for all rid my theology of any vestiges of Dispensationalism.
Well, I may still be sympathetic toward dispensational theology, but that doesn't lessen my appreciation for Ladd's work, especially his magisterial Theology of the New Testament.
3:40 PM Here's a suggestion if you work with children. Why not get some copies of VOM's latest kids activity book? It's called "Bold Believers in Ethiopia" and is chock-full of fun and information. It's VERY interactive. Some of the stories came from my wife even. At any rate, here are some pix I took of the cover and the innards. The last photo contains contact information for the Voice of the Martyrs. Enjoy!
3:07 PM Boy have I been busy! Dallas Willard would not be very happy.
Incidentally, I've only got two more chapters to write!
12:38 PM I'll have to miss this because I'll be teaching a course here. If you live in the greater Knoxville area, why not stop by and say hello? Better yet, see if you can register for the course by calling the Harvest Institute's office. Class begins next Monday. We meet every night and all day on Saturday.
11:55 AM Quote of the day:
No Christian can claim to be a follower of Christ without ... asking whether he or she measures up to the teachings found in the Sermon of the Mount.
11:21 AM The ETS annual program features a section called "Toward a Consensus on Exegetical Method: Definition, Purpose, Components, Sample Using Phil. 2:6-11," featuring papers by Buist Fanning, Stan Porter, and Bill Larkin. Should be interesting. I only hope that someone points out that the paragraph includes verse 5. Or is that now up for grabs?
11:12 AM This quote by Alfred Vagts (A History of Militarism [New York: Meridian, 1959] p. 17) got me thinking:
Militarism is ... not the opposite of pacifism; its true counterpart is civilianism. Love of war, bellicosity, is the counterpart of the love of peace, pacifism; but militarism is more, and sometimes less, than the love of war. It covers every system of thinking and valuing and every complex of feelings which rank military institutions and ways above the ways of civilian life, carrying military mentality and modes of acting and decision into the civilian sphere.
6:55 AM A tentative schedule of the ETS annual meeting in Providence, RI, is available here(.pdf).
6:43 AM A rider never knows what to expect. Anything can spook a horse. One day, while racing through the countryside, Traveler saw a duck and froze (while I kept going, right over his head and onto the ground). Inevitably, the day comes when you have to say goodbye to your favorite steed. This story about Olympic hopeful Karen O'Conner's pony Teddy brought back many memories. I know exactly what she's feeling like.
Tuesday, July 22
6:40 PM I received this wonderful email from a reader a few minutes ago:
I just finished reading your post on Erasmus and I believe the Lord has used it again to push me towards something I have been slow in doing. I want to learn Greek! I have studied theology, but due to some level of foolishness and laziness in my early college years I avoided a proper theology degree partly BECAUSE of the language studies!! So I have a BA in "Christian Ministry" instead. I am an associate pastor now, but I would like to go on to get my MA in theology, but I don't want to wait for then to begin to study Greek. Is there a book or a program that you would recommend that I could use to get started? Its a pretty overwhelming thing to look at from square one! and I just don't know where to start...
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated,
Thank you so much!
Here was my response:
Sounds like the Holy Spirit has just clobbered you. Glad to hear it. There are many good resources out there to help you, so don't despair. If you choose to use my beginning grammar, which is perfectly suitable for self-study, I have a pronunciation CD and a little workbook I can send you gratis. I can also answer questions you might have -- when I'm not traveling, that is. Let me know. I'm sure you can learn Greek. Why not give it a try?
It's true. Anyone can learn Greek. It's easy. It's just us Greek profs who get in the way. As I said in my response, if I can help any of you get started, I stand ready to do so.
3:25 PM Help! I'm going crazy! Stark raving mad! I can't even close my eyes without seeing beans. Long, pickable, green beans! Will it ever end? They're after me! Help!
10:37 AM Becky's Thinking of Christmas? has been added to our home page as well to ourEthiopia Files. I think it's these "little acts of love" that make all the difference in the world.
6:56 AM Paul Proctor has some concerns about Google Earth.
6:25 AM links to Things I learnt during, and about, my PhD (which appeared originally at Jamie's Weblog). Three comments jumped out at me. For what it's worth, here's my response:
I remember hearing that, on average, 1.6 people will read your PhD thesis.
Well then, why not get it published? As I tell all of my students, if it's worth writing, it's worth other people reading. Personally, I will do anything I can to see that my students publish their work. My own doctor father in Basel, Bo Reicke, encouraged me along these same lines, and I will be eternally grateful that he did.
Supervisors are strange creatures. Some are like ghosts, appearing occasionally for a fleeting moment, and you’re more likely to meet them at a conference than at the University. Others are always around but they’re too busy running around like demented hamsters on a wheel – all motion and no progress. They’re disorganised. All of them will, at some point, forget what your project is about – and some will even forget who you are...
My own experience may be unique, but Prof. Reicke was always available for counsel, never disorganized, and invariably helpful though never over-bearing. The first month I lived in Basel I stayed in his home. I had personal access to his home library (European professors do not have on-campus offices as we do in the States). We often had coffee together. Not only did he never forget about my thesis topic, he was thrilled with it. So was my second reader, Dr. Heinrich Baltensweiler, an expert in Paul.
A PhD is a completely solo effort. There is no one you can ask advice of. No one can help you.
Again, what about your major professor? And are you married? Becky was my ever-faithful partner and confidant. She knew my dissertation backwards and forwards. She even typed it for me (on a thing called a "typewriter"). And then there was our church family: die Baptistengemeinde Basel(photo). Baptists in Europe are sometimes considered a cult, so there aren't many of them. But our church family, all 35-40 of them, were an incredible source of support and encouragement both to me and to Becky. Many even attended my graduation.In my book The Myth of Adolescence, I have a section called, "Teenagers Are Terrific." I truly believe that the teen years can be the BEST years of our lives, not the worst (as they were for me). So it is with our doctoral studies. They can be the worst or the best of times. It's really what YOU make of them, including the wise selection of a major professor. Please go slowly on this last issue. And you will certainly want to meet IN PERSON your advisor before ever studying with him or her. It's called "chemistry."
Monday, July 21
7:57 PM Here's a big thank you to Lane Dennis, president and publisher of Crossway Bibles, for sending me prepublication materials for the new ESV Study Bible. It's due out on Oct. 15. I was privileged to be a part of the team of 90 writers who contributed to it. I must say that the typesetting, cartography, etc. look like a first class job. If it can help us get into the Book of books, it will serve a useful purpose.
Right now it's time to get the dogs, go sit on the front porch, and start reading the 7 books I received in today's mail:
- The Road to Reality by K. P. Yohannan
- The Upside-Down Kingdom by Donald Kraybill
- Anarchy and Christianity by Jacques Ellul
- Violence by Jacques Ellul
- Christians and Politics Beyond the Culture Wars by David Gushee
- The Politics of God and the Politics of Man by Jacques Ellul
- Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna
5:35 PM Becky writes:
Thinking of Christmas? Just moments ago we got a call from someone who is planning ahead. This year she’s decided to give gifts to needy people in third world countries, giving these gifts in honor of specific relatives here at home. In this way, those who really need gifts will get gifts, and they will be gifts that keep on giving, even into eternity.
What a GREAT IDEA! So she called us to ask if we could help her implement her idea. Absolutely! We are taking a team to Ethiopia in November, and there are many gifts we plan to take with us. Would you like to help us?
For starters, how about money for seeds? The Burji people are suffering severe drought; all their crops this year have failed. Not only is their crop gone for this year, but also they have no seed for next year. We will be doing a farming workshop in the villages, teaching them about how to improve their farms, and distributing seeds to those who attend. They must pass a “quiz” on the information we taught before receiving the seed, and of course, we will tell them about the Bread of Life when we teach them about their farms. We want to give seeds for Kale, Turnips and Field Peas.
Or how about food for war widows? The Guji tribe has made war against the Burji tribe repeatedly in the past couple years. Each war leaves new widows and orphans in its wake. To lose the head of the household is almost a death sentence for these peasant families. Add to that high inflation, with food prices tripling in just 18 months! The Guji churches are collecting an offering for the war widows, and we want to supplement that offering and give a substantial amount of food to each of the widows. The Guji church leaders will present this food publicly, as a demonstration of the way of Jesus, who taught us to love our “enemies” and to make restitution to those we have harmed.
Or how about food for rural church leaders and evangelists? These men walk long distances into town for a 4-day Bible Conference. Last year they brought their own food and slept on the floor of the church. But the conference ended early because they ran out of food, and they walked home on empty stomachs. This year, in a year of famine, we want to provide the food they need, so they will not be weak during the conference and they can focus on the spiritual benefit gained at the conference.
Or how about wash basins and soap for peasant families? In the villages, we will teach the women, children, and men about hand washing. Poor hygiene is probably the #1 contributor to illness in Africa. And simply washing hands goes a long way in preventing sickness. We can teach until we are blue in the face, but if they cannot afford a wash basin and soap the teaching accomplishes nothing. So we want to buy simple plastic wash basins and soap, distributing one per household. They must attend our teaching session and pass a “quiz” on hand washing before we give them a basin. And after we leave the village, the church leaders will visit the homes to check that the basins are being used correctly. We want to buy these basins in the Mercado (big market) in Addis, but we need to collect funds for them now.
So what is the cost for all these things? Based upon past experience, here’s what we estimate:
Food for Widows and Orphans: $1500.
Food for Bible Conference: $1000.
Wash Basins and Soap: $1500.
Are you tired of giving Christmas gifts that are quickly abandoned? Would you like to give a gift that lasts, a gift that really helps, a gift that may make the difference between life and death for some poor peasant? If so, we welcome your partnership with the Burji people, for the Gospel’s sake. Make checks payable to BeckyLynn Black & send to 2691 White House Rd., Nelson, VA 24580. As always, 100 percent of your gift will go to the Burji people. In the Name of Jesus, we thank you!
11:45 AM We just emptied the manure trailer down in the Hidden Valley. (Doesn't that sound mysterious?) Jessie took over my photographer's duties. I thought I had much better form than Nathan today. Wouldn't you agree?
9:57 AM This has got to be the quote of the day:
We treat "church discipline" as we if are excluding someone from our club and we don't care if they join another club as long as its not our club.
In Scritpure, what we call "church discipline" depends upon relationships, not organization.
9:42 AM Just back from spending 2 hours picking beans. I want to thank all my bee friends for being so kind to me today. They buzzed me a few times but must have realized I'm just trying to do my job, just as they are trying to do theirs. Let and let live.
6:45 AM Even if this happens, McCain will still not win. The reason is the two Bs: Barr and Baldwin (can you hear that siphoning sound?). Besides, the vote in November is not the one that counts. We vote everyday by where we place our allegiance, whom we serve, and what our priorities are. Pop evangelicalism doesn't care, however. If Dobson be for us, who can be against us?
6:37 AM SEBTS student Andy Metzger has some GREAT thoughts about mediocrity:
It seems apparent that my generation at least has grown up in a culture that finds a certain satisfaction with living comfortable, nominal lives...and as long as we're doing "ok" there's no reason to complain. Of course, this worldview is never confessed. In fact, I think that for a few years of everyone's life, the opposite is professed--perhaps it's a desire to travel the world, accomplish great things, make something of themselves, serve the disadvantaged, etc. Eventually, though, the adventure novel is set aside (usually without even being cracked) and the safety of routine and normality is welcomed. How sickening.
I want the passion of Whyte. The refusal to settle for mediocrity. The perseverance to attempt great things, especially in service to our Lord and Savior. Anyone care to join?
Count me in, brother Andy!
Sunday, July 20
2:51 PM The edification-meeting today at Bethel Hill was superb. Shepherd Jason took to the floor (literally; he stepped down from the platform and "walked among us") and shared about God's amazing grace from Exod. 20. What? That chapter's all about the law! No way. Just read verses 1-2, which is what Jason did. Then he asked for testimonies, and two of the sweetest, dearest ladies you'd ever meet got up and poured their hearts out in gratitude to God. I got three talkings-to from Jesus in one morning!
While driving there, the classical station was playing -- you won't believe this -- Brahm's German Requiem, IN GERMAN! Yes, I enjoy the English version, but you have got to learn German if for no other reason than to listen to this great piece in the original. It was performed flawlessly by the Berlin Philharmonic and Chorale.
I wondered afterwards, did any of the singers know what they were singing about? Nominal Christianity is everywhere in Germany. Were the singers all Namenschristen? I don't know. But I do know that the best rendition of Handel's Messiah Becky and I ever heard was performed by a secular kibbutz choir we heard in Jerusalem. Powerful! And I know these were not messianic Jews. Just think about it: singing about Messiah Jesus and probably not "understanding" a word you are singing.
It's not much different with you and me, friends. Have many times have we read the New Testament and completely overlooked its obvious meaning? As I wrote earlier, Jesus is always full of surprises, and when you begin to follow Him, you have no idea what you're getting into. Over and over again in the Scripture, Jesus warns us against the pride of achievement, of titles, of worldly status and attainment. Have we learned THAT lesson? I do not want to settle for a cheap Christianity that exalts the Bible as inerrant (which it is) without living out what it clearly teaches. Yet for most of my academic career that's exactly what I did. All that is changing. I sense a new momentum in my life. I'm now an advocate for infectious nobodiness so that Jesus can have the status He deserves. Jesus calls us down from our raised platforms, calls us out from out behind our protective pulpits, so that we can walk and talk among the people just as He did. He tells us to refuse the chief seats, titles, prominence -- all that earthly pizzazz. Amazing, isn't it, that all of this is clearly taught in the New Testament yet we are so blind we can't see it.
I imagine it's like singing Handel's Messiah without knowing the Messiah.
8:21 AM I don't like to pretend that you might really be interested in knowing, but I thought I'd tell you what my new book is about. If you're already bored, just drop down to the preceding blog post and read a very good book review I linked to there.
As you may know, I've been on a less-traveled road of late. In fact, for about 8 years. I tried to avoid the path for a long time, but I can't any longer. It involves some pretty basic stuff: discipleship, ecclesiology, politics and war, feeding the poor. I haven't yet sold all I have to follow Jesus, but I think I've started to get serious about being a radical Jesus-follower. How then to combine all these thoughts into a single rant?
I'm calling the book "The Downward Path of Jesus." My goal is try and midwife the idea of Jesus' kingdom for the here and now. I will probably raise more questions about the church and the world than I answer. That's okay. We're all in process since we're all pilgrims and aliens on this earth. I've subtitled the book "From Cultural Conformity to Radical Discipleship." Sounds pious, doesn't it? Like I've really been doing it. But that's hardly the case. I just think we should stop viewing the church as an end rather than as a means to an end. When I wrote in my bookPaul, Apostle of Weakness that power is weakness and weakness strength, I meant to promote not otherworldly mysticism but the deepest reality of all: that the way up is down, that weakness wins, that the Lamb who was slain is worthy to receive power and might and glory and honor.
The title alludes to the way Jesus concluded His earthly ministry. He washed His disciples' feet and then said, "I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done" (John 13:15). This is the way Jesus sought to glorify His Father. It is the exact opposite of our human way. We seek glory by moving upward. Jesus chose the way of downward mobility, through suffering for us. Whenever He speaks about being glorified – being "lifted up" – He always refers to His death. It was through the cross that Jesus glorified His Father and made known God’s glory to us. The book is simply the story of my pilgrimage in becoming a more cruciform Christian, an extremist for God. I'm half way done writing it, and I want to complete it before I begin my foreign pilgrimages in mid-September.
Enough said. In case you're interested, I've copied the table of contents below. I would ask for your prayers but I don't need to. Jesus will lay that on your hearts if He desires. Meanwhile, let's stop acting like sovereigns and start acting like scullery maids.
1. Introduction: The Downward Path of Jesus
2. The Liberated Church: Recasting Our Vision of Discipleship
3. The Radical Reformation: The Anabaptists and Suffering Servanthood
4. The Priestly Kingdom: Communal Ecclesiology and Every-Member Ministry
5. The Community of the Spirit: Leadership Jesus' Style
6. The Politics of Jesus: Disarming the Principalities and Powers
7. The Future of Evangelical Christianity: Recovering the Ancient Faith
7:52 AM If you think opposing war is always liberal and shock and awe is always conservative, think again. Then read this review of Bill Kaufmann's new book Ain’t My America: The Long, Noble History of Antiwar Conservatism and Middle-American Anti-Imperialism.
7:12 AM David Augsburger's Dissident Discipleship arrived in the mail yesterday. Lots of good quotes. Here's one of the best (p. 156):
Service that is necessary -- required, owed, obligated, contracted -- may be offered with genuineness, concern, compassion, and thoroughness. Or it can be done grudgingly, of necessity, under duress. One does what has to be done.
Service that is done voluntarily falls into a completely different category. It arises out of unbidden concern, undemanded interest, unowed compassion. This is the service that comes close to being the actions of love. It is offered by free choice because of the nature of the servant. One does what one sees as needed.
Our world is in desperate need of "servants by nature," don't you think?
7:05 AM Aussie John (who blogs at Caesura) sent along this wonderful testimony of God's goodness to him and his family. I post it here with his permission.
I cannot tell you how much I was blessed and affirmed by your most recent comment on The Assembling of the Church. Your words reflected my continuing conviction over these long years.
Having been fully involved in church life since I was twelve years of age, I had seen many things which caused me concern. I had been preaching and teaching since eighteen years of age, but didn't enter into "official" pastoral ministry until after college in my mid thirties, by which time I, one day, sat in my study asking God to show me what He wanted of me. I became deeply convicted that I should pray and ask Him to cause me to remain an ordinary man in the proper sense of the word "ordinary". I trust that still applies.
Your question, "Do they ever talk about getting their hands dirty in the name of Jesus?” evoked some memories for me, because it involves my own understanding of the ministry of leadership demonstrated in the New Testament.
We (my wife and five children of high-school age and myself) were invited to a church in the south west of New South Wales, a farming and light industry town, where, during our time there, our Lord blessed the ministry of His people with many converts. The denomination leaders gave the credit for that "success" to me, instead of the only One to whom it was due, and as was usual when they thought someone had found "the secret", asked me to share "my strategy" with other western pastors. My "strategy", I told them was, "to sit in the dust with the folk I ministered to, and to get my hands dirty alongside them". The response was one of disbelief.
One funny incident happened as I was helping a congregation member with a cow having trouble giving birth. I had my arm inside the cow, up to my armpit, manipulating her calf. I became aware of a neighbor staring at what was happening. As I looked around to him, he said, "I have never seen a priest doing anything like that!"
My prayer is that the many younger folk who read Alan's blog will take great heed of your very wise words. I thank God for you and the lessons you have learned and are sharing with these who have obviously seen through the artificiality and pretense of much which is happening in Jesus precious name.
Yours in Christ,
Frankly, I think if you're getting paid to minister to other people, this "armpit strategy" would go a long way toward breaking down any barriers that exist between you and them.
Saturday, July 19
1:55 PM Greek students! Logos Bible Software has just announced 166 Volumes of Greek Goodness! Also suitable for church history addicts.
1:37 PM Check out this fun blog post about the linguistic landscape of Basel. The variety of languages spoken there was one of the main reasons Becky and I enjoyed living in that city so much. I knew a man who could even tell you what part of Basel someone was from by his or her accent. O, and if you're considering doctoral studies in Europe, why not take a look at Basel's Theologische Fakultät? It's a fine school, though I am TOTALLY biased.
1:05 PM Since I'm currently writing a chapter called "The Priestly Kingdom: Communal Ecclesiology and Every-Member Ministry," I thought maybe I'd jump back into the discussion going on at The Assembling of the Church. The biblical doctrine of the priesthood of the believers (for heaven's sake let's always use the plural) has nothing to do with autonomous individualism. It is not a way of saying that each of us should look out for our own personal interests -- which is forbidden in Phil. 2:1-4! It simple means that as Jesus-followers we are all members of one another in His kingdom. Harmony in the Body (e.g., between leaders and led) comes not from church "membership" or ministerial "authority" or the "sacraments" of baptism and the Lord's Supper (amazing how people still use sacramental language to describe these simple acts) but comes when all of us at the Spirit's behest aim to build one another up. And that, I think, is one key to understanding the problem of "pastoral alienation." Pastors who are parachuted into a community and whose stay there is for all intents and purposes ephemeral can never be "one" with the people they seek to serve, at least not to the same high degree as the home-grown elders and deacons (this is a point often made by Steve Sensenig). Thus the entire unbiblical professionalized clerical system is called into question by the issues Alan is raising. What I love about Jesus is that He's always calling us to deny ourselves. And He never called anyone into "the" ministry. If you still doubt that this is a problem, just read "Must the Pastor Be a Superstar?", chapter 6 of Howard Snyder's The Problem of Wineskins. I really don't see how we can begin to turn the world upside down for Jesus until we turn the church right side up. Maybe the wineskins matter more than we think after all.
11:28 AM Rick Mansfield (who also writes at Cooking in Cast Iron) plugs the New Living Translation Blog.
11:09 AM TC Robinson has a problem with second editions. So do I. I have to write them. Why? Ah, that's why we have prefaces.
9:02 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Erasmus and You.
Friday, July 18
9:16 PM A day in the life....
Here's what B. and I picked this morning. BEFORE it got hot.
Nate and I spent a couple of hours over at Hebron church cutting up this 150 year-old oak that had fallen (providently, right between the grave stones in the cemetery). Not a bad haul. Should keep Nate and Jess nice and warm this winter. And oak burns HOT.
Have you noticed? The price might not change, but the quantity does. Becky bought this tub at the grocery store this afternoon.
Bradford Hall 30 minutes ago. I snapped this while I was on the front lawn with the dogs. Magnificent topper to a great day.
2:25 PM Good afternoon, bloggers and bloggerettes. Today I want you to meet a really great New Testament scholar. You've probably never heard of him before. But trust me, he's an outstanding expert in the New Testament. His name? Nathan Black. You say, "Wait a minute! How can you consider Nathan a New Testament scholar? He doesn't even have a post high school education!" Now hold on there. Nathan is VERY well educated, and I'm not talking only about the certificate in carpentry he received from our local community college. You see, it all depends on your definition of "educated" and "scholar." (In Anabaptism, by the way, appeal was made to the plain man’s judgment, unspoiled by the university. Those who toiled with their hands [craftsmen] or who worked in the soil [peasants] were presumed to be more receptive and teachable than those who had been corrupted by the folly of worldly wisdom.) My translation of "New Testament scholar" is one who knows the New Testament backwards and forwards AND who follows radically the Jesus it talks about AND who lives according to its hard teachings. So just by having a doctorate in New Testament, just by holding a chair in New Testament, just because everyone reads your famous books about the New Testament, doesn't automatically make you a "New Testament scholar." Not in my book. Just go to some New Testament blogs. Do they ever talk about sharing their faith in Jesus with others? Do they ever talk about pledging allegiance to Jesus and His Church -- the ONLY Christian nation that has ever existed? Do they ever talk about getting their hands dirty in the name of Jesus? Why are you staring blankly at me? Truth be told, you can be a full professor of New Testament in a prestigious university and still not walk or talk with Jesus! I recall being at a scholarly meeting a couple of years and listening to a newly-minted Ph.D. in New Testament refer to himself in his paper as "a New Testament scholar." "As a New Testament scholar, it is my opinion that...." He did this consistently and quite un-self-consciously. I'm sorry, but I actually chuckled OUT LOUD.
Now let's contrast Nathan. He and Jessie started attending a small church called Hebron after their wedding. Hebron was founded in 1880. (If you ever want to visit Hebron, here are the directions: just drive to Podunk and turn right.) The first Sunday there the people asked Nate to teach. He said, "Why not?" and he's been teaching ever since. The meeting starts at 10:00 and goes to 11:00, or else to 11:30, or else to 12:00 -- well, you get the picture. (Ain't nobody in no hurry.) They don't really have "church" or a "worship service." Just Bible study, prayer, maybe a hymn or two (Nate also plays the piano for them), and lots of talking. They wanted to pay Nathan but he just said, "Keep it." He teaches only from the Bible -- no notes, and no published curriculum. Deep stuff, yet simple. Right now he's teaching through Hebrews. Or should I say leading the flock (all 13 or 14 of them, mostly farmer-types) in a discussion from the Bible about our Great High Priest, how we're all priests in the kingdom of Jesus, how salvation is FREE (seems some folk think you need to get wet to get saved), how the Spirit lives in us so that we do not have to depend on the experts to explain what the Bible means, how the Church is more important than the church, how "believers" are a dime a dozen but "lovers" are few, and how people and not a building are the "temple" of God. They love it! Speaking of a building, the church meets in an old clapboard meeting hall off of a long gravel road. No restroom facilities, but there is a cemetery. I believe our world is in desperate need of such churches. And of such New Testament scholars. What an example that 25 year-old is to me!
Sat plene biberunt. That's Latin for "shut up and sit down." So I'll keep my peroration short. Say you're a New Testament "scholar" and you're reading this right now and you are just furious. You've been taught to think, "Scholars don't talk about their private lives. We need to keep Jesus out of the academic guild!" Honest to goodness, I once thought that way myself. But listen, it all comes down to the cross. As a much greater New Testament scholar than you or I will ever be once said, "We go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless.... We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world" (1 Cor. 4:11-13). If that isn't clear, then maybe some of us have been educated beyond our intelligence. The great French theologian Jacque Ellul put it this way: "Christians should be troublemakers,...agents of a dimension incompatible with society." A DIMENSION INCOMPATIBLE WITH SOCIETY. Man, I like that. So, my dear scholar friends, keep on earning your doctorates (I have one myself), keep on writing your books (many of which I own), keep on lecturing at your conferences (I may attend one myself). But for Christ's sake (I am NOT swearing), get radical for the Jesus of the New Testament or quit the moniker "New Testament scholar"!
Domenico's Portrait of a Scholar:
The New Testament scholar à la Jesus:
Nathan installing bookshelves in a school in Burji, Ethiopia, in June 2006:
9:19 AM Nathan in the great state of Tennessee sends along a link to Tentmaking: Perspectives on Self-Supporting Ministry. Have any of you read it yet? It looks like a winner. From the table of contents:
- Ronald Hock: Paul's tentmaking and the problem of his social class
- Rolland Allen: The maintenance of the ministry in the early ages of the church
- Desmond Fisher: Worker-priests once more
- John Nurser: To pay or not to pay
- Robin Gill: Theology of the non-stipendiary ministry
- Anthony Harvey: The workman is worthy of his hire: fortunes of a proverb in the early church
Whoa, heady stuff. I wonder, is it really possible to develop a giving-oriented community unless we nurture a culture of sacrificial giving from the "top" (pastors, elders, seminary profs) on down? Once again, we read the New Testament but don't hear it, for it clearly teaches us that our resources are to go to helping the poor rather than toward buildings and staff. I'm not sure where we get the notion that we need huge and lavish physical plants, except from the Old Testament. After his conversion, Minucius wrote about the Christians he once despised: "Why do they have no altars, no temples, no images? ... What temple shall I build Him when the whole world, the work of His hands, cannot contain Him?" No church I ever attended taught me that. It is much easier and more comfortable to talk about the "poor" only in the abstract. After what I've seen in this world, I'm sorry, but I can't do that any more.
Thursday, July 17
8:24 PM Who am I? That's a silly question to be asking! But I'm writing the preface to my book on discipleship so the topic has come up, at least in my own mind. Am I a conservative or a liberal, right-wing or left? Though my theology is conservative, I've learned much from my brothers and sisters on both ends of the evangelical spectrum. Some of my friends think only about Israel, others only about Palestine. Some complain about the 3,000 unborn who are killed every day in America, while others focus almost exclusively on the 30,000 children who die of starvation every day in the world. I see no need reason to establish boundaries of love. If we mourn the loss of 4,000 U.S. service personnel in Iraq (as we should), we must also mourn with the same outrage and passion the life of every innocent Iraqi civilian who was lost. Some evangelicals believe that right-wing politics hangs the moon; others support the liberal left. I pledge my allegiance to neither. Folks, I just want to be a Christian -- a simple, radical, marginal, downwardly-mobile follower of Jesus. There's nothing unique or spectacular about being a Jesus-follower. You just remember that God's love is borderless. You just declare the Good News to the poor, as He taught us to do. And it all happens through relationships, not programs or organizations. And here's something strange: I am learning to fall in love with people and not just ideas. And I love ideas! Crazy people like Jim Elliott are finally beginning to make sense to me. I'm learning how to reprioritize my values and resources. Just think -- the average American consumes as much as 520 Ethiopians do. Can we do anything about it? You bet! Because of our website Becky and I receive gifts for reading glasses and protein bars and pre-natal vitamins Bibles and meeting houses and evangelists' salaries and equipment to show the Jesus Film with and food to feed hungry prisoners and on and on the list goes. No fancy organization, no 501 c(3), no overhead, no bureaucracy, no HQ. Just Jesus-people connecting with Jesus-people.
Man, am I becoming a Jesus Freak again like I was in the 60s?!!
4:31 PM I see I'm not the only one asking, When Will We Get Back to the Constitution?
1:41 PM Alright, it's time for a nap. I've been sitting at my computer nonstop all morning answering dozens of emails and typing my book and my back is killing me. I keep asking myself, Are you really writing another book? In this day of the internet? What is it about the codex that makes us go out and buy them by the hundreds? Far more people have read my blog than will ever read my hardcopies. Yet I still write books! If the codex is a dinosaur, it must be one of the Jurassic Park variety. Talk at ya later.
10:50 AM Help! Does anybody know where I can find a copy of Roland Allen's The Case for the Voluntary Clergy?
9:57 AM Here's an interesting discussion of Bible versions -- which is "best," literal vs. dynamic, etc. The author mentions "Jesus wept" and "Jesus cried" as a case in point. I do agree that there are significant connotative differences between these renderings. Here's my own suggestion, taking the verb dakruo and the inceptive aorist into account: "Jesus burst into tears."
Incidentally, did you know that "Jesus wept" (John 11:35) is NOT the shortest verse in the New Testament in terms of word count?
9:42 AM Hey fellow pilgrims, Alan Knox has an excellent blog on why people feel so disconnected from their pastors. The comments are also well worth reading. One thing that hasn't been mentioned yet: The fact that so much of our ecclesiology stems from the Old Testament rather than from Jesus' New Promise. Alan alludes to this problem when he writes, "[Pastors] are not holy men doing holy work in holy places." Let me just add one quote to the discussion. John Kiwiet (Pilgram Marpeck, pp. 101-102) summarizes Marpeck’s Anabaptist hermeneutics as follows:
Der alte Bund war eine Zeit des Suchens und des Dürstens und erst der Neue Bund eine Zeit des Findens und Stillens. Die Verheissung an die Alten geht im Neuen Bund in Erfülling [sic]. Die Finsternis wird zu Licht und der Tod zu Leben. Es ist wie der Unterschied zwischen gestern und heute; das Alte ist vorbeigegangen, und das Neue ist gekommon.The Old Covenant was a time of seeking and thirsting and the New Covenant a time of finding and stillness. The promise to the ancients finds its fulfillment in the New Covenant. Darkness turns to light and death to life. It is like the difference between yesterday and today; the old has gone away, and the new has arrived.
According to Pilgram Marpeck, the Old Testament must be distinguished from the New Testament as the foundation must be distinguished from the house. Let's not forget this important truth. It makes all the difference in how we "do church."
8:35 AM Update: Iran and U.S. Signaling Chance of Deal.
7:55 AM Anyone interested in the concept of "regime change" and the problem of international conflict should note what Mary Caprioli and Peter F. Trumbore have to say in their essay, "Rhetoric vs. Reality: Rogue States in Interstate Conflicts," Journal of Conflict Resolution 49, pp. 770-91. The authors state, “Overall, rogue states as a group are no more likely to become involved in interstate disputes in any given year, are no more likely to initiate military disputes, and are no more likely to use force first when disputes turn violent” (p. 788). Ostensibly, "regime change" serves to ensure democracy and human rights, but in reality it is often intended to ensure hegemony and egoistical national interests of major world powers. Moreover, if the definition of a "rogue state" is one that causes inter-state disputes, the "Axis of Evil" nations are not the only states to deserve that moniker.
When Ron Paul attempted to point this out during the Republican presidential debates in 2007 he was ridiculed for being anti-American and treated like a political leper by the mainstream media. His "crime" consisted of recognizing that certain motives and passions are driving terrorism worldwide. But he is right. To talk only about terrorists is to risk focusing solely on the symptoms of terrorism while ignoring altogether the more complex and deeply-rooted motivations behind terrorist attacks. As Yoder reminds us (When War Is Unjust: Being Honest in Just-War Thinking, pp. 70-79), the just war tradition automatically implies the legitimacy of conscientious objection to war. In other words, wars may be just or they may be unjust. Ron Paul may or not believe in the just war tradition, but it is not wrong for him (or anyone else) to suggest that a state can be waging an unjust war or to put the burden of proof on those who advocate the need for warfare in a particular case, since such reasoning is a logical implication of the just war tradition.
7:43 AM This weekend I'm reading everything I can get my hands on written by John Howard Yoder. Just as Yoder was a Mennonite who preferred to call himself an ecumenical neo-Anabaptist, so I am a Baptist who feels himself an heir to the Anabaptist heritage. I do not claim to be a thinker on the level of a John H. Yoder; I mention him simply to note that we share a passion to see the Anabaptist tradition rediscovered. (Coincidentally, we also have in common Basel doctorates).
6:36 AM In his 2008 book A History of Iran, Michel Oxworthy offers his readers some advice (p. 289):
The present government in Iran is far from perfect, but there are other governments in the Middle East that are as bad or worse – on democracy or human rights – whom we have few scruples about describing as close allies. If we can deal respectfully with Iran as a partner and an equal – and not merely, as too often in the past, as an instrument to short-term ends elsewhere – we might be surprised at how far even the current hard-line regime would go in taking up the partnership. Then we would see the beneficial effects a better relationship could have within Iran.
I do not know whether Mr. Oxworthy is a pacifist or even a Christian, but his advice is something every follower of Jesus should be willing take seriously. Even as the centrifuges in Iran spin, the very least a peaceable Christian can do is demand that the administration in Washington make every attempt to resolve the impasse through diplomacy.
Today comes news that such a process may have begun. The New York Times is reporting that the Bush administration is beginning negotiations this weekend without insisting that Iran halt its production of enriched uranium.
The presence of William J. Burns, the under secretary of state for political affairs, at the meeting with Saeed Jalili, Iran’s nuclear negotiator, in Geneva on Saturday, will send “a strong signal to the Iranian government that the United States is committed to diplomacy,” the State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, told reporters on Wednesday.
If both sides soften their stance, progress is possible, perhaps inevitable. Let's pray for successful talks this Saturday. An unjustified attack on Iran will only take America further down the path of self-destruction and will make it even more difficult to penetrate the world of Islam with the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Wednesday, July 16
1:19 PM Congratulations to Matthew McDill. He wasn't the first one and will certainly not be the last one to add to the literature on Mark16:9-20, but I'm glad he joined the discussion!
12:45 PM It's time to move the herd to another pasture. Which means it's fence walking time. It was in pretty good shape actually. A little woven wire here, a little barbed wire there. A little tree felling too. We'll move everyone over this afternoon.
10:23 AM I was picking beans with Becky this morning and didn't have a real chance to read the news much, but the best piece I've seen on the web today also has the most inventive title:Iran + Iraq = Ironic. The author is one tough, and wise, dude. Incidentally, I wrote about this very subject in my new book yesterday.
9:59 AM I hope it's not sacrilegious to say it, but here's a big shout out to the Lord of the harvest (small "h") for providing us our entire supper last night from our farm: yellow squash, yellow and green beans (my personal favorite), tomatoes, cukes, and venison. Even the water came from the well He provided for us. Wow.
Tuesday, July 15
7:52 PM B & H Academic has just listed my Learn to Read New Testament Greek: Third Editionover at Amazon. If you can't figure out the front cover, neither can I. Don't worry; the publishers have agreed to redesign it.
7:44 PM I once caught a 5-foot sand shark while fishing in Hawaii. I let it go. But this story is creepy.
7:38 PM This has got to be THE quote of the day:
Vote for whoever you like but don’t slander, backbite, gossip, and pass along lies that are propagated by the media, for Christians this is when we have crossed the line. Especially the Antichrist stuff and God is judging us by electing Obama. Because truth be told there are some old school solid men/women of God who feel the same way about Bush!
7:17 PM Well, Sheppie was able to walk. All Sheba could do was waddle, she's getting so big. So Sheppie goes off gallivanting and brings home a big cow horn. He's now making short order of it. Sheba's resting.
1:51 PM Whew! Just finished typing chapter 7 of my book. The chapter title is "The Politics of Jesus: Disarming the Principalities and Powers." Man was that a hard one to write. Time for a coke and a long walk with the pups.
How's everyone else? Nate and Jess are down in Oxford painting a lady's house. Becky is trying our her brand new super-duper state-of-the-art computerized sewing machine. Pix later.
7:55 AM From my trip diary # 13:
Tuesday, June 10, Alaba. Today I traveled many miles to talk about Jesus with an elderly man whom I dearly love. He is the head of his village and a good friend of mine. I always try and see him when I visit Alaba. His name has been on my daily prayer list for years. Thus far he has not acknowledged Jesus as Lord, a step that would cost him dearly. Today again he was indecisive, though I think he is close to the kingdom. I feel very sad, perhaps like Jesus felt when the rich young ruler whom He loved decided that following Jesus was too costly. The young man couldn't let go of his concerns and his priorities and thus, downcast and disappointed, he left Jesus. Jesus was sad, the rich young man was sad, and today I feel sad because I know how much my dear friend in Alaba needs the Savior. Will he ever become a follower of Jesus? Many in his immediate family already have. I must continue to pray.
Hw many people do you know that are letting that "one thing" stand in the way of following Jesus? Are you praying for them daily?
7:36 AM Chuck Baldwin reports about the Ron Paul Freedom March here. Don't miss his peroration.
7:25 AM Just accepted an invitation to speak at Vintage 21 Church in Raleigh on Sept. 9. My topic is "biblical criticism." Times are 6:30-8:30 pm.
Monday, July 14
8:40 PM O, I bumped into my colleague Frank Catanzaro ("Captain Zorro") on campus today. He and his wife just spent a week at the most perfect beach in the world: Kailua. I had put him in touch with a great rental house there. After all, that's where I was raised and where Becky and I spent our honeymoon. Check out this great aerial photo.
In the foreground are the Mokulua Islands ("Twin Islands"). We would take a hobie cat there and then grab our boards and surf the reef break, shown in the center right of the picture. The beach in the center is called Lanikai, and to the right is Kailua Beach. In the background is the Koolau Range, deeply fluted mountains that form the western edge of a caldera (which means that Kailua sits in an extinct volcano!). When my family moved to Kailua from Waikiki in 1955, none of the houses you see here were in existence. Now Kailua is the second most populous city in the Islands. When I wasn't surfing Kailua you could find me at the North Shore or else surfing Ala Moana or Flies on the leeward side of the isle.
Here's the sunset we witnessed almost every evening. People have asked me, "Did you ever take the beauty of Hawaii for granted when you lived there?" The answer is: NEVER. I can honestly say that there was not a single day that went by when I did not consciously say, "Thank you, Lord, for your creation!"
7:16 PM Today I received a very nice letter (yes, a letter, not an email!) from Harold Greenlee talking about his new book and the Festschrift that I edited in his honor several years ago. Again I want to encourage as many of my readers as possible to check out Harold's primer on textual criticism, even though I disagree entirely with his approach to resolving textual issues!
7:05 PM Rick Saenz asks a very good question:
The important question is this: is the purpose of the homestead to provide comfortable incomes, even for multiple generations, or is it to create a context in which successive generations can live and thrive, i.e. reclaim an agrarian life?
I would say that our purpose is both (but please scratch out the word "comfortable" before "incomes"). Nate and Jess, as fulltime farm managers, would be very happy with a subsistence income and with being completely self-sufficient in the food department. Becky and I would happy with the latter, at the very least. For example, with the price of bread going up, Bec has decided to return to baking her own at the fraction of what it costs for a loaf in the supermarket. Meanwhile here are a few pix of what our kitchen has looked like for the past 3 weeks while Becky has been canning. I don't know if this qualifies as "reclaiming the agrarian life," but it's probably the closest to agrarian living as we'll ever come! (By the way, can you tell I like green beans and pickles?)
6:52 PM Just back from the seminary. It seems like years since I was last on campus. It felt GOOD. My sabbatical hasn't even begun and I already miss the classroom. I don't know how people can stand to take a whole year off from teaching. One solitary semester is almost unbearable for me!
8:10 AM I had to chuckle at Bill Walker's latest over at LRC: They Didn't Attack Switzerland. Actually, I have first-hand experience of what he's talking about. In 1983, when I graduated with my doctorate from the University of Basel, part of the ceremony, which dates back centuries, was to place my hand on an ancient sword and swear (in Latin) to defend Basel against all her enemies should she ever be attacked. This is an old tradition that is still practiced today, long after the Swiss were known as the world's most intrepid mercenaries. Today the populace is very well-armed (a deterrent, it is believed, to foreign invasion). To cite one example: Herr and Frau Schaub were members of our little Baptist Church in Basel. Herr Schaub would often regale about his WW II experiences. He used to say that was in uniform on active duty far longer than any other European -- from 1936 to 1948 -- without firing a shot. So Bill is right about the Swiss and active deterrents. I would only add 2 things: that Switzerland is NOT a member of the EU (membership was rejected by referendum), and that the Swiss confederation is so loose that most Swiss citizens could not tell you the name of their federal president.*
* Pascal Couchepin (careful how you pronounce it!)
7:35 AM The latest addition to our home page was written by Becky. It's called Weeds. And no, it's not only for gardeners.
7:26 AM Friedrich Nietzsche, the classical philologist, once quipped that it was extraordinary that God should have used such bad Greek in writing the New Testament.
I know of some New Testament scholars who find it easy to talk about "errors" in the Greek of the New Testament. No, not solecisms, or even barbarisms, but actual errors. Speaking personally, I have yet to find a singular error in the Greek of any of the 27 New Testament writings. I made this point rather emphatically yesterday at The Carpenter's Shop, because I wanted people to see that the inspired Word of God, far from being just inspired and even inerrant, is profitable, useful, practical even. This is what 2 Tim. 3:16 teaches. I do not see how a writing can be useful if I cannot trust what it says. I have always been impressed by the force and finality of the Scriptures. And the cross of Jesus is the central theme of it all. It is a struggle in which there is no quarter: one must either accept or reject Christ unconditionally. And not only that: it is also a question of ultimate loyalty. One cannot proclaim Jesus as Lord and have any other lords. This includes the nation-state. With the conversion of Emperor Constantine to Christianity not only did the church become the state-church, the empire became a church-state. In this church-state the only ones who could interpret the Bible were those who had been professionally trained for the task. No longer was every member a Bible scholar. The priest abrogated the member's responsibility to know God's Word personally. Substitute "pastor" for "priest" and you have the modern problem of clericalism.
Let me repeat what I said to our friends yesterday. There is NO SUBSTITUTE for the Word of God. Not James Dobson. Not David Jeremiah. And certainly not Dave Black. With all due apologies to the brilliant Nietzsche, God made no mistakes in recording the words and deeds of our Savior in a language that every man and woman, cultured and uncultured alike, could read and understand. In the end, it does us no good at all to have a perfect source of truth and never bother to read it.
7:19 AM As we were processing our beans last night, Becky and I listened to Brahm's magnificent German Requiem, which we sang years ago with the Northeast Piedmont Choral. That was mostly "BE" -- before Ethiopia, when we had the time for rehearsals, performances, etc. I just had to chuckle to myself. Beans and Brahms in one fell swoop. We're just weird, I guess.
Sunday, July 13
6:08 PM The apostle Paul never mentioned "dangers in the air," but that was before the invention of manned flight. Becky and I have taken off and landed many times in Khartoum, which just experienced its fourth fatal air disaster in 2 months. It's eerie flying into an airport that is smack dab in the middle of a huge metropolis. As always, you just trust God, knowing that His timing is always right.
5:33 PM Here's a huge shout out and thank you to brother Jimmy Chalmers and the good folk at The Carpenter's Shop in Creedmoor, who made Becky and me feel right at home as I shared from the Scriptures about the -- Scriptures!
My main assignment was to refute Bart Ehrman's view of the corruption of the New Testament. Here I am holding up a piece of papyrus that I got in Egypt. It is the size of the average ancient letter. From there we talked about the history of the transmission of the New Testament text, how to resolve textual variants, and a little bit about the formation of the New Testament canon. Remember, folks, this was in "church"! I loved every minute.
Becky and I used to live near Creedmoor, so we saw a few old friends but mostly made lots of new ones. I thoroughly enjoyed the casual, family atmosphere of the meeting. It was very free-going. I imagine open meetings like that can get pretty rough-and-tumble at times, but the folks there spared me any embarrassment and even seemed to enjoy themselves. My greatest fault, I think, is that I talk too much and I talk too fast.
At any rate, the group meets in Jon's Main Street Bar and Grill, and afterwards we enjoyed Jon's new dinner buffet, which even included steak. (Try it out!) Having being forced to "buffet" my body, I came home and took a long nap but the beans and cukes are waiting to be canned so it's back to work for the two of us. No rest for the weary!
8:50 AM Well, we finished the apples, then we went over to Nate and Jessie's for supper. Afterwards we checked the progress on their parlor. This is one of four cabinet doors they are installing in their bookshelves. The doors date from 1832 and come from a historic building. The craftsmanship is outstanding, I think. Nate will leave the finish as is to preserve the old look.
One of Jessie's jobs has been to remove the old cut nails from the lath boarding in the room. Again we're looking at ante-bellum construction.
They recovered several sizes of cut nails, which Nate proudly displayed for me. Here in Bradford Hall we used the big nails for all of our flooring, upstairs and down. The nails were so old that we often had to drill a hole in the floorboard before we could pound the nail. The flooring itself we cut off the farm, just like in the old days.
O, here's a first at Rosewood Farm. Jessie cut her husband's hair. Can't have all them curly cues on her farmer man!
I was glad to surrender that duty to Jess, and the results never looked better. Here's Lady Jessica with her Stonewall.
This morning Becky is picking beans, and then we're off to "share in the life" with a gathering in North Carolina. It's a Q & A session on how we got our Bible, the formation of the canon, textual criticism, and other various and sundry subjects having to do with the historicity and trustworthiness of the New Testament. Should be gobs of fun.
Saturday, July 12
12:39 PM Doug Kaufman is visiting the oldest Mennonite church in the world. This is something I would sorely like to do someday.
12:39 PM Gary DeLashmutt discusses the role of ritual in the life of a new covenant believer.
It is important to note that Jesus prescribed very few rituals compared to the number in the Old Testament economy. It is also noteworthy that the way in which these rituals are to be observed is not explained in detail, again a sharp contrast to the Old Testament period. Since we live in the period of fulfillment of salvation rather than in the period of promise, ritual takes on a lesser role. This fact, together with Paul's warning in Ga1.4:1 11, should teach the believer that ritual plays a relatively minor role in the Christian life compared to his/her personal relationship with Christ.
Read more here. His essay might give you pause the next time someone is asked to pray during the Sunday meeting and says, "Dear God, thank you for allowing us to meet in your house on this Sabbath day to worship you."
12:15 PM If you live near Columbus, OH, the Xenos Summer Institute might be something you'll want to attend. The dates are July 23-25. Plenary speakers include Don Carson and Mark Driscoll. For the conference website, go here. Interestingly, the conference even has a "home stay" program where you can stay in people's homes free of charge. You gotta love it!
11:59 AM I believe that the church gathers not to worship but rather to build one another up (1 Cor. 14:26). For what it's worth, I said as much here. That said, I still believe in worship, as correctly defined. This essay helped me to see that worship is a lifestyle. Again, this lifestyle of worship is what made the early church so unique, and so different from our "praise and worship" oriented gatherings. Why should we have "worship" services and "worship" folders and "worship" leaders and "worship" teams when the New Testament teaches that all life is to be "worship"? Is our problem ignorance? Is it indifference? Is it disobedience? It is my hope and prayer that essays like the one I linked to above will be used of God to awaken interest in His Word and lead those who use it to a better understanding of what He expects of us today.
11:28 AM The web has helped me again (see entry below and the link on Spencer's site). I'm ordering John Frye's Jesus the Pastor.
11:19 AM What does "Jesus-shaped" leadership look like? Here's Michael Spencer's answer.
11:13 AM Sen. McCain is a patriot. Kester Smith isn't.
10:38 AM Kyle Osland is convinced that the church is a group of exiles.
One would think that this reality of identity and vocation would be more prevalent and immediate to discern, but perhaps we have underestimated the power of spiritual formation of a secular culture and nation-state. For me, the exciting potential of being an exile is that we can serve our not-yet-Christian brother and sisters by offering new perspectives, fresh political imagination, and a critique to the culture that so conditions and governs our lives.
I think it was precisely because the early Christians had a pilgrim identity that they were so willing to take responsibility for each other. They could not bear to have too much when others had too little. Genuine Christianity is a lovely thing. It looks good. It is a band of exiled brothers and sisters living in reverence for Christ and living out that reverence in respect and care for others.
To be honest, I'm struggle with this perspective. For far too long I existed as an iceberg Christian. In the early church there was an engaging winsomeness on God's people. They proved that Christianity was right by confronting people with the undeniable evidence of Christian character. They were literally unable to stop speaking about those wonderful things they themselves had personally seen and heard and experienced. They knew first-hand that it was true, and they were so certain of it they were willing to lose their lives for it. Their first concern was to put their Christianity into practical action by serving and sacrificing.
The believers in Ethiopia are very much on my heart this morning. They too are members of Christ's Body. They too are exiles wandering this planet, living close to God and sharing His love with their neighbors. But the church is almost starving. Drought is everywhere. Inflation is rampant. When the church in Antioch heard about the famine in Judea, they knew they had to help. It was unthinkable to them that one part of the church should suffer and that another part of the church not do anything about it. How about it, American church? Will you at least pray for those who are suffering? Later I'll present some specific steps that perhaps we can take to help tangibly. But my main thought now is this: Do we see ourselves as one Body -- not members of the American church but members of the church of Christ? Is the life of an exile in Ethiopia as important to me as my own life? Am I willing to suffer and go without for their sake?
God help me.
8:55 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Why I Love the Anabaptists.
8:46 AM Today's the day. Speakers include Chuck Baldwin, of course.
8:32 AM I see that the evangelical power base has met to anoint John McCain over Sen. Obama. Wow, the suspense was killing me.
"People are not saying, 'Let's all go out and support John McCain,'" Burress said. "It's more like, 'We have to do what we have to do for our country.' Basically, that boiled down to John McCain."
Nary a mention of Chuck Baldwin. O well. The hawks won't get their way this time. Meantime, I think I'll watch Pride and Prejudice and reminisce about the "good old days" before American foreign policy dissed generations of resistance to preemptive and unilateral attacks.
Friday, July 11
8:34 PM Tonight I cooked Chinese stir fry. Even added some yellow squash Becky had just picked. Tasted great. You can see that we have our work cut out for us tomorrow with all these apples.
The tree we got them from is over 100 years old (below left). They are by far the largest and tastiest apples we know of in this entire area.
The tree is situated behind this old house, which is probably the most beautiful Victorian in all of the Piedmont. It's even on the South Boston Walking Tour. For a cyber-visit, click here.
Thanks very much, Bob, for your generosity to us!
4:56 PM Today we welcomed to the farm Jon Glass and family. Jon shepherds at Ca-Vel Baptist Church in Roxboro, NC. He will be teaching the book of 1 Corinthians this November in Burji. Right now Becky and I are leaving for South Boston to pick up more apples.
4:22 PM Theological German now links to a list of Super German Sites on the web. Man, I wish I had access to such resources when I was teaching myself German back in the 70s. I agree withAnthony Gregory that government has no business telling us what languages to speak and learn. I also agree that learning foreign languages is fun and useful. One example: What language will you use when you want to have a secret conversation in the presence of your kids? Becky and I use German. Then there are the surprises, like the time we had a friend from Switzerland who went camping with us in California. (I had been a student at the University of Basel from 1980-1983.) A group of Swiss tourists happened by, and before you know it we got into a long conversation (in German, of course). After a few minutes they looked at me and said, thinking I was Swiss, "How can you stand living in America?" When I told them I was an American, they had what can only be described as a major "oops" moment.
7:45 AM Yesterday an astute reader was kind enough to point out to me a gaff I had made in calling Alexander Hamilton "George" Hamilton. I see I wasn't alone in the gaff department this week. (Just ask Jesse Jackson.) By the way, here's one website I'll miss after the elections.
6:12 AM Presidential candidate Chuck Baldwin has a special word for his Christian friends here. I think he's right. The true church will always be in conflict with the prevailing social and economic structures. So I think it's commendable that Chuck has decided to enter politics to try and penetrate that world with biblical values. Jesus was often in the company of the Zealots. Obedience to Christ will often place the Christian in the midst of political pragmatists. The temptation, however, is to yield to pragmatic responses rather than seeking biblical alternatives. Political involvement may be good and praiseworthy but must of necessity return us to the challenge of the cross. If we attempt to move beyond the cross and use the same pragmatisms the world employs, we are tempted to compromise truth with what appears to be good political sense. Obedience gives way to expediency. As for the political system in the United States, Caesar does not need to be a Christian to be under God's control. Any good end that the Constitution Party may serve (and I believe it does serve a good end) is a matter quite separate from the role of the people of God who are consciously dedicated to knowing and serving God. Heaven help us if the world concludes that the Gospel is only one more self-serving ideology among others.
Thursday, July 10
9:24 PM Feel up to a brief farm collage?
Our fields will soon be ready for a second cutting, Lord willing. So far He's given us soaking rains to help our grass grow green and tall. We are very grateful. This time last year the drought had already started.
Our barns are gradually filling up. We'll store the hay until winter, when the demand for horse-quality square bales is higher.
Nate and Jess were working today on the bookshelves in their downstairs parlor. I think the fireplace and mantle already look fantastic.
Everywhere you looked this evening the sky was full of colorful and unique cloud formations like this one.
Here's N. and J. 30 minutes ago, spreading manure on the "ripple field" as the sun was setting. When Sheppie saw his master, he took off running after him. Them boys sure is close!
O, more good news: Jessie's foot is almost back to normal.
Back to writing....
3:05 PM Did you know that the shortest animal gestation period belongs to the American opossum, which bears its young 12 to 13 days after conception? The longest is the Asiatic elephant, taking 608 days, or about 20 months. The gestation period for Shetland Sheep Dogs lasts just over 2 months. We are all looking forward to Sheba's babies. Sheltie puppies are born in about half hour intervals. Since the average litter is 7 puppies, the whole birthing process can take 7 or 8 hours from the start of labor.
Here's the happy mother:
And here's Sheppie, the proud father:
Time for me to take them on a long walk, get the mail, and check up on Nate and Jessie over at their farm house.
11:28 AM Greek students! I hope you are planning on taking Greek Syntax and Exegesis in the fall. But if you have to postpone it, I wanted to mention that I will offer a section of the class in the spring. I've asked for the 12:30-3:20 time slot, but we'll see. I do know the class will be held either on Tuesday or Wednesday. If you do decide to take the course with me, be forewarned: It is probably the most difficult class you will take in seminary bar none. The good news is that, if you survive, you will really KNOW your Greek.
11:12 AM Our modem went out on us last night. No storm, no nothing, just a brief electrical outage and poof -- it's gone. So yours truly drives all the way to South Boston, where NOBODY carries dialup modems anymore -- not even Wal-Mart. All was well in the end, though. I took Becky to dinner at 220 Seafood Restaurant in Henderson and stopped in Staples to get their one remaining dialup modem. I also ordered two as backups. Bec and I had flounder and baked potatoes, with sides of good North Carolina slaw and hushpuppies.
Wednesday, July 9
11:01 AM The latest addition to our home page is by guest author Kevin Brown. His essay is called Rite of Passage: A Return to Scriptural Adulthood.
9:48 AM Gary North's take on the fallout of an attack on Iran is very interesting. The blue jeans revolution in that country would come to an end and the ante upped in our two current wars. The big question mark: what if the nation's bellicose mood shifts? (I'm talking about our nation, not theirs.) North concludes that it would be terribly inconvenient but not disastrous if an attack occurs. Just be prepared to pay $10 a gallon for gasoline and watch your portfolio collapse. Either way, there will be a lot of bloodletting on both sides, which you will never see of course, because most of the gore and suffering is never shown on television, "embedded" reporters notwithstanding.
9:22 AM Tom DiLorenzo's new book on Hamilton should be just as politically incorrect as his works on Lincoln. He talked about it today over at LRC. I believe there are numerous parallels between between Hamilton and George Bush, and have said so in public. I do not worship the U.S. Constitution. But it's the law of the land, folks. And it's really very simple. "Smallgovernment." Ditto for the Bible. You don't need to be a scholar to understand it. Just read it and obey it. If it says that every member of Christ's Body is a minister, then be a minister and stop depending on others to do all the serving for you. If it calls you to sacrificial service, then by all means be willing to give up some of your comforts to do that. In public life as well as in church life, volunteerism is to be the rule and not the exception.
9:05 AM When he's not feeding the fear and stoking homeland security, Sen. McCain hopes to establish a reputation as a standup comic. His latest idiocy (can you think of a better word?) would be like a wacky Peter Sellers satire if so many people didn't die from smoking. I guess it's his way of showing voters that his foreign policy is more muscular and "comprehensive" than Mr. Obama's. If we can't nuke 'em, we can always get 'em with the "tobacco strategy."
Ha ha ha.
Tuesday, July 8
10:20 PM You won't believe this, but Nate and I worked till after 8:00 pm today. We got the tin on the roof just like we hoped. Good thing too. It's no fun getting all your things wet when the rain comes. It's beginning to sink in, rather painfully, that my age has caught up with me. Tonight my back aches, my feet ache, my wasp sting stings, and I'm just pooped. It's hard to fathom, really. Moi, the expert surfer dude and equestrian? I've been asking myself all day, What have I done for the kingdom? Shouldn't real disciples be out preaching the Gospel or at least passing out tracts? So what have I really accomplished today? Well, two things come to mind. I let Becky have the pooter all day so she could finish her "Burji '08 Ministry" paper. It zings, let me tell you. For example, wait till you hear about the "Burji Youth Corps." (And no, they don't get paid for helping, either.) She also wrote an article for the web. Plus many important emails. So I didn't get any writing done. No biggie. Secondly, Nathan truly needed some heavy lifting help today. He was up on a barn roof all day, and if I hadn't been there and done that, he'd still be there doing that. Man I wish I had taken the camera today. His work really looks good. Or should I say "our" work? And good work -- even a new barn roof -- reflects well on the Master Carpenter, don't you think?
So there you have it -- my "kingdom" work for the day. Well, its after 10:00 pm and I still haven't checked my emails. Talk to you tomorrow!
6:53 AM Well, my fall sabbatical travel schedule is really starting to take shape. So far it looks like I'll be traveling abroad, sharing the love of Jesus, for 10 out of the 16 weeks of the semester. I start back to school on Jan. 5 (J-term runs from Jan. 5-21), then the new semester starts the very next day, Jan. 22. Whew! Meanwhile I hope to finish my book project before I leave on my first jaunt in mid-September. Believe me, I'm writing this book more to understand than to instruct. I'm grappling with my own lifestyle, my own concepts of discipleship, ecclesiastical structure, and Christian witness. I really want the book to be more than just another textbook. I've written enough of those!
Speaking of writing, I thought you'd enjoy these pix from my last trip to Ethiopia. They were taken in Bahir Dar on Lake Tana. After a long day of teaching, my translator and I would often come here for some hot milk and to enjoy the gorgeous sunsets. He called the place "Little Hawaii." I sure felt at home and got a ton of writing done.
6:46 AM So I'm writing my book and a question keeps popping up. Pacifism or antipacifism? Two flowers on a petal. She loves me, she loves me not. This is my latest dilemma. What to do with pacifism? I'm reading The Politics of Jesus and The Presence of the Kingdom, and I'm ordering the classics by Bainton, Beattie, Driver, Herschberger, and McSorley. At least with these authors no one can defend the proposition that pacifism is based on liberal theology. I'm also reading Elton Trueblood, one of my faves. Even men like Carl Henry who do not espouse nonresistance teach the need for greater concern on the part of evangelicals for the social teachings of Jesus. The key question for me is this: Do I really take the words of Jesus at face value? Menno Simons asked, "How can a Christian, according to the Scriptures, consistently retaliate, rebel, war, murder, slay, torture, steal, rob and burn cities and conquer countries?"
What to do with pacifism?
6:35 AM Over supper last night Becky and I had a great conversation about risk-taking and the kingdom. Why, we asked ourselves, should Jesus-followers expect to live a long and happy life? Why do we think that longevity is a sign of blessing? If we are radical followers of Jesus and are seeking first His kingdom, maybe we need to adjust our expectation of longevity. Think about it. Here are some kingdom-building activities that might well put your life at risk:
- Working with the HIV-AIDS population as a witness to Jesus' love
- Moving to the inner city or an urban ghetto to serve Jesus
- Ministering the Gospel to prostitutes and pimps
- Driving down the road in a third world country on a mission trip
- Sharing your faith in a Muslim nation
- Traveling to a malaria-ridden region of the world to live out your faith
If Epaphroditus could "gamble away his life" (the rendering "risk his life" is too weak -- see the Greek of Phil. 2:30), why shouldn't I? I find no better illustration of this than in the words of Menno Simons, who was a hunted "heretic" because he opposed Roman doctrines he considered wrong:
We desire with ardent hearts even at the cost of life and blood that the holy Gospel of Jesus Christ and His apostles ... may be taught and preached through all the world.Therefore, we preach, as much as possible, both by day and by night, in houses and in fields, in forests and wastes, hither and yon, at home or abroad, in prisons and in dungeons, in water and in fire, on the scaffold and on the wheel, before lords and princes, through mouth and pen, with possessions and blood, with life and death.This is my only joy and heart's desire: to extend the kingdom of God, reveal the truth, reprove sin, teach righteousness, feed hungry souls with the Word of the Lord, lead the starving sheep into the right path, and gain many souls to the Lord through His Spirit, power, and grace (Complete Writings of Menno Simons, p. 303).
WOW! Has it ever been said better? Friends, none of this is academic to me. It's simply one more way Jesus is turning my life upside down. Do I have a burning zeal for evangelism set aflame by the Spirit of God? Am I willing and even eager to "gamble away my life" in order to show forth the way of true Christian discipleship in my home, neighborhood, relationships, travels?
6:22 AM Good morning, blog world! I'm sorry to start off with some disturbing news. But this is the real world, folks. And it has everything to do with Christian ethics. Even if you are not into politics, you must read this essay by Muhammad Sahimi parsing the resolution on Iran that is now before the House. It is an eye-opener! The attack, according to people who should know, will take place just after the election. If it takes place at all. You know how I'm praying!
Monday, July 7
11:11 AM Look at what Nate and I just picked. Thanks for your help, son. I've had a sinus headache all morning but ran out of my medication for it. So it's off to CVS to pick up my refill of Maxalt. Will stop by and check up on Lady Jessie on the way out. Her foot is much improved, thank God.
7:46 AM Good morning, bloggers and bloggerettes. I'm by my lonesome today, as Becky has gone off to baby-sit two of "our" grandchildren while their mommy and daddy take their middle son to Richmond for ear surgery (I'm praying for you guys!). Yesterday we had a wonderful day. We spent the morning at Bethel Hill BC, then had lunch with 3 very special friends of ours at a really good Mexican place in Roxboro. The afternoon was spent in canning apple sauce -- 33 quarts full.
Today is hot and muggy. The only outdoors work I've got planned for today is picking green beans and possibly helping Nate on a construction job. Otherwise the ink will be flowing from the quill just as fast I can write. I'm not well-suited to being a polemicist but I must confess that my book has a bit of an edge to it. I've learned a great deal from the barrel-chested manifestos that evangelicals have written recently, but I'm not trying to emulate them. I am certain that pseudoradical ideas (including some ideas coming out of the emerging church movement) will not work because they have the same money, paid staff, buildings, investments, clericalism, and institutionalism as do most conventional churches. Why don't we get real and stop viewing the church as an end rather than a means to an end? It is God’s means of sculpturing a new humanity, a spiritual kingdom out of the dross of humanity. I'm thankful for friends like the ones we spent time with yesterday, who are always available for kvetching and counseling and who make a very good sounding for my odd ideas about kingdom living. The big challenge is saying what I want to say and not fall back on Western bumper stick talk.
Pray for me.
Sunday, July 6
7:58 AM The role of women in the church and the home remains a hotly debated topic in evangelical circles. You'll appreciate the tone, then, of this recent essay on complementarianism. It's a follow-up of sorts to the peace plan Timothy George offered a couple of years ago at CT. For what it's worth, I've jotted down some of my own thoughts on the subject in an essay called A Great Commission Marriage. And no, this is not a picture of Becky and me.
7:50 AM The new Apologetics Study Bible is reviewed here by Celucien Joseph.
Saturday, July 5
8:35 PM I have often said that the heart of the book of Philippians is 1:27-2:18. And I've read and heard many good sermons from the paragraphs in this great section. But the kingdom emphasis found in this sermon series is truly refreshing to see. Well done, Tony!
8:05 PM For all of you students of New Testament Greek out there, I've just sent in the contributors' bios to the publisher for my latest book, Perspectives on the Ending of Mark. Amazon lists the release date as Nov. 1, but I'm hoping we can push that up to the beginning of September, just in case anybody wants to use the book as a classroom text this fall. We'll see. B & H have a done a splendid job of typesetting. I think you'll be pleased with the results.
7:32 PM Hey, fellow bloggers and kingdom lovers. If you haven't done so already, check out Matthew McDill's recent entry on church leadership. You gotta love it. And Matthew's no armchair theologian. Every Sunday he and his friends attempt to flesh this stuff out in Boone, NC.
Here's my favorite quote:
When we seek to function in this pattern (a congregation that seeks to follow Christ by consensus through the Word and the Spirit as they are led by a co-equal team of pastors), it will be difficult and inefficient. But the difficulties (produced by immaturity, selfishness, sin, individualism, etc) will reveal the real spiritual need. In the process of corporate decision making, the real needs can be addressed and discipleship takes place.
6:50 PM From my trip diary # 12:
Thursday, June 12, Alaba. Today I visited our son Mohammed in the Alaba prison. I know for sure that God has a very special purpose for this young man. When I look critically at my own life, I know in my heart of hearts that I could easily be in his place. There is a voice in me that says, "You are no better than a murderer, for you too have hated, have been angry without cause, have committed murder in your heart." Even though I trust Jesus and His love, I hold so much back. But God is glad to receive us home even if we are murderers. Mohammed is very strong spiritually (thank God!). He spends much time in the Word, meets with his fellow believers for prayer at 6:00 am every morning, and is living for the kingdom. As I left he told me, "After this punishment I will go and preach the Gospel." I hugged him, much like the dim-eyed old father holds his returned son close to his chest with unconditional love in Rembrandt's painting The Return of the Prodigal Son. If I ever needed a concrete sign of God's amazing grace, Mohammed is it.
4:29 PM Well, today I spent lots of time at Nate and Jessie's house. Nate needed some fatherly help moving heavy furniture. Then Jess cooked up some scrumptious quesadillas. Right now they've gone off with Becky to pick apples in a friend's orchard in South Boston. I have a sneaking suspicion mom is going to invite the newlyweds out to dinner afterwards. There's a good Mexican joint there as well as a so-so Chinese place.
I did manage to get some thoughts down on paper today, especially as they relate to the themes of my new book. Until Jesus' kingdom was subverted into its opposite ("Christendom"), believers' only loyalty was to Jesus and to His kingdom. It should be the same today. If we are truly Jesus-followers we cannot have two loyalties or two masters. We are called to be revolutionaries by acting like Christ. Yet look at all the things that come between us and radical discipleship -- education included. It hurts me to say this, since I've been a teacher for 31 years, but for many people, education is not a way to serve the kingdom but a path to upward mobility. And then there are all those things we give to Caesar that don't rightfully belong to him. This is a point that many evangelicals fail to catch. They assume that the demands of the state are always to be followed. Indeed, the state is not even open to question. Then they commit the ultimate hermeneutical gaff -- they "interpret " the Bible in whatever way is necessary to make it fit with the government's demands.
In the coming days I'll probably be blogging more on this. Needless to say, right now I need to focus on exegeting the scriptural texts that have to do with radical discipleship, and there are plenty of these! In the meantime, remember:
Discipleship is always costly.
12:40 PM Exactly 3 weeks ago today our son Fasil was married to Rahel. They make a lovely couple, don't you think? Fasil teaches Greek and New Testament at the Evangelical Theological College in Addis Ababa. He has translated for me on numerous occasions. He has a huge servant's heart. Congratulations, you two. May the Lord richly bless your married life as you serve Him together.
12:29 PM Farm update:
1) Had a great time working with Nathan yesterday on a building project down in Carolina. He had me pounding nails. And more nails. I used to have calluses from this kind of work. Now I've got blisters. Shows what happens when you don't do any manual labor for a couple of months. Then we swapped out trailers and unloaded manure. We topped off the day with an excellent supper of Mexican food that Becky had cooked up.
2) Jessie's foot is on the mend! And not a minute too soon. She's getting a foot soak three times a day and staying off it completely. The B-team will be glad to relinquish his position to Lady Jess once she's healed up. Everywhere I went with Nathan people asked, "Where's Jessie?"
3) Becky and I have been juggling the computer, back and forth, back and forth. A friendly game of see-saw. Such excitement! I've been writing, she's been writing, and we've been getting some of the most amazing emails we've ever read. I wish I could tell you the details, but let's just say that the Lord of the Harvest is continuing His good work all over the world. Much of Becky's work concerns the clinic in Burji. I'm glad she's got organizational skills, because I sure don't. My own emailing has been finalizing my travel schedule for the fall. The doors keep opening worldwide, so it looks like a busy sabbatical -- just the way I like it.
4) We had a good rain this morning to help our parched soil. Looks like some more is in the forecast.
5) I just finished my study of 2 Corinthians in my morning devotionals. Let's see, where to go next? I think I'll study 2 Maccabees! (Just kidding.)
Friday, July 4
8:43 AM Good morning, fellow bloggers. And Happy Fourth of July.
What a great nation we live in! No, I'm not referring to the good ol' US of A. Christianity transcends all boundaries -- national, cultural, racial, geographical, natural, even educational. Think about it. This understanding of Christianity was commonplace in the early church. Only after Constantine did it increasingly become a minority position. Even the Reformers continued the church-state alliance. "Christian" warfare continued unabated, and the rise of nation-states only led to its increase. Go figure!
Today the American church is squarely aligned with the powers that be. I once supported the alliance. Not anymore. Radical disciples of Jesus embrace those on the other side of the dividing walls of hostility in our world, even including our "enemies." Can I get an "Amen!"?
So today, on this Fourth of July, I am thankful to God as I see the growing number of saints who refuse to worship the nation-state and the pervading cultural infatuation with violence, who instead prefer the scandalous way of powerless love, who realize -- whether American or Ethiopian or Chinese -- that they are a pilgrim people who live in the world and yet have their real citizenship in a kingdom that is both partly present and coming in all its fullness.
Yes, what a great nation we live in!
Thursday, July 3
2:10 PM Got some great news from Ethiopia today. And I mean "great." I'll let Becky tell you about it. Here's an email she sent out this morning:
Exactly 5 minutes ago, at 9:41am, Virginia time, we got a call from Oshe, a church leader in Burji....he was calling to report that just then the Government had handed them a license for the Galana Clinic!!!! This is a great praise! It has taken many months of negotiations, document collection, discussions with village people, etc.,etc....but now it is completed, and we can move forward with this work! Rejoice with us!! If our Lord is willing, we have figured that 75,000 people a year will hear of the Saviour thru this Clinic. It is in a village that is primarily Muslim, but also has many animists (witchdoctor, African religion). The village is at a juncture between three tribes, which are often at war with each other. So there is much opportunity for the Kingdom here!Please continue to pray for the clinic. God has given us a really good man who is well trained to supervise the clinic. Now we will begin the reconstruction, gather of supplies, and hire other personnel. This weekend the Burji Church Leaders are having their annual conference, and will choose the chaplain for the clinic. Please be in special prayer for this decision, as he is a key part of the spiritual success of the ministry.
On another note, Oshe told me also that there is severe drought in the Burji/SW Ethiopia area. At this time of year usually the rains have made the land to be fresh & green, but this year the crops are already brown & failing. The Burji people are 95% subsistence farmers, so a drought has serious affects on the people. And it also affects the income of the churches, which in turn support the ministry. The drought also sparks tribal warfare, causing the loss of precious lives, creating widows & orphans, stopping transportation & commerce, etc. The Burji leaders are asking us to spread the news: Please pray that our Lord will bring rain to the area.
May our Lord bless you for your prayers for these dear people!!
Many of you have prayed much about this clinic. Now it's time for all of us to offer thanks to God. Let us also pray that the work of conversion might go on through the clinic operations, and for all those who will be involved in getting it operational. And please do pray for the Burji churches as this weekend they select the evangelist who will be working fulltime in the clinic. Thank God we have spiritually-minded leadership in Burji!
As you know, I was in Burji just two weeks ago. Would you like to take a brief tour of Galana, where the clinic is located?
We've just left the town of Soyama, the only major population center in the district of Burji. Here's the road we take to Galana, where the clinic is located. If we stayed on this road it would take us north to Amarro and from there to Yirga Chefe, where we could take the two lane (but paved!) "Pan-African Highway" to Addis.
After about a 20-minute drive we arrive at the village of Galana and take this side street past the local Kale Heywet church to the clinic site. Last year our Burji team from the States held several workshops here and showed the Jesus Film to large crowds, many of them Muslim.
The clinic itself is situated on a large tract of land adjacent to the church property. The clinic has been run for several years with a limited staff and practically no outside assistance. The clinic is under the watch care of the Burji Kale Heywet District office located in Soyama.
The main clinic facility is in fairly good shape. This picture shows the waiting area. Our plans call for it to be expanded and for a covered shelter to be built on this side of the building with additional benches. It is here that our fulltime evangelist will be stationed.
The current nurse lives at the facility during the week and goes home on the weekends. We are hoping to add two more fulltime nurses plus a part-time lab tech, who will live in the Galana village or on the clinic site itself.
This storage room houses most of the clinic's meds and equipment. Our plans call for significantly expanding these services offered to the public.
Our task in the coming months is to refurbish the existing structures and have them up and running again when our team arrives from America in November. You can see we have plenty of work to do.
We are thinking that the nurses can stay in this building once we repair it. For security purposes, we are hiring two full time security guards, one for daytime and one for the night shift.
This is an example of poor construction. The interior sticks were placed directly into the ground without any foundational protection, thus permitting significant termite damage.
This exterior wall has been mudded but still needs cementing. Sometimes the cement just falls off the building because it was applied when the mud was still wet.
When you arrive at the clinic, all the munchkins come out of the wood work, at first staring inquisitively, then becoming the best of friends. All it takes is a smile or, in my case, a smile plus a portrait of one of the children!
Remember what Becky wrote in her email: on average about 75,000 people will visit this clinic each year, including, I'm sure, some of these precious children. They will not only receive expert medical care, they will hear about the Jesus who loves them so much that He suffered on their behalf many years ago. Listen, this is what missions is all about. It's not a program or a method. It's just people. People in Burji, Ethiopia, and people in our own backyard. Will you pray that God would do a great work of redemption among the Burjis and the Gujis who will visit the Galana clinic in the coming years? Thank you.
11:17 AM This is not one of Ron Paul's better speeches in the House, but it does get his point across:
H.J. Res 362... is a virtual war resolution. It is the declaration of tremendous sanctions, and boycotts and embargoes on the Iranians. It is very, very severe.
Paul is outraged, and well he might be. Basically, as I read it, so many who supposedly champion the cause of liberty detest liberty in any other country -- it's a nightmare for them from which history will ultimately bear them out, or so they argue. Such arrogant intolerance of those who wish to live in peace with other nations is not new. Just go back 6 years to the run-up to the Iraq War. May God bless Paul's efforts.
10:12 AM The latest addition to our home page is called The Jesus Paradigm.
9:55 AM It happened 145 years ago today. I'm referring to Pickett's Charge, of course (aka Longstreet's Assault). I've walked that bloody mile many times, once in full uniform. What awesome bravery, on both sides.
Fifty years after the battle, the veterans of Pickett's Division Association and the Philadelphia Brigade Association shook hands in comradeship over the stone wall at the angle.
Which would you have rather witnessed -- the battle or the reunion? I can tell you I would have paid a million dollars to witness the latter!
"God has done all this. He has restored our relationship with Him through Christ, and has given us this ministry of restoring relationships. In other words, God was using Christ to restore His relationship with humanity. He didn't hold people's faults against them, and He has given us this message of restored relationships to tell others. Therefore, we are Christ's representatives, and through us God is calling you. We beg you on behalf of Christ to become reunited with God!" (2 Cor. 5:18-20). God, the Great Re-Uniter!
9:46 AM I stayed up until midnight last night reading my escape story, Free as a Running Fox, by Tommy Calnan. Of all the escapes he attempted, surely the most interesting one took place from the POW camp at Schubin. This essay by Peter Liddle has a fascinating description of what it was like to be a tunneler working in the dirt of Poland.
Entering the tunnel was a daily experience of horror. Each trip down required a little more courage, and the need to blot out the thought of all those tons of earth pressing down on you, knowing that a cave-in would leave us trapped, breathing mouthfuls of mud and unable to go backwards or forwards.
The presence of light became important, not just to work by, but to steady our nerves and remind us that there was a world above with sky and fresh air, waiting for us to return.We worked on in stifling darkness, trying not to think about the amount of unstable earth directly above our heads. It is hard to convey the sense of claustrophobia that comes from an hour of stabbing away at a wall of Polish mud so narrow that you can only get one arm forward to work on the face and which stretches back behind you so far that it takes half an hour to wriggle back to safety and sanity at the tunnel start. The experience assaults every sense. We felt the cold clay around us, pressing in on us and seeping into our bones until we almost became part of the tunnel. The loss of sight in the darkness when the lights went out was total. No glimmer of light had penetrated that wall of mud in a million years. Even when the margarine lamp flickered, it only served to emphasise the blackness around it – what Milton once called “darkness visible”.
When a shower of earth fell from an unshored roof: it filled the mouth of an unfortunate digger, gaping wide for oxygen in the stale void of the tunnel.’
I'll confess, I could never have done this. I am far too claustrophobic. What courage these men had. Later, Calnan successfully escaped from Stalag Luft 3 in Sagan, Poland, the site of the "Great Escape."
9:35 AM Did you know that lava produces vog? Neither did I. (Had to add that word to my spell checker.)
9:30 AM Students in Knoxville, if you're taking my Gospels-Acts class in 3 weeks, I'm sending off the pre-reading assignments today. Check the HIBS website for details.
9:22 AM On my trip I took several "Nathan pictures." Here's one I think he'll enjoy. And he thought he was the master dumpster diver! I took the photo while traveling in Addis.
Just so she doesn't feel left out, here's one for Lady Jessica, the ultimate animal lover. I snapped it on the path I took every day to and from my discipleship class in Gondar. What an amazing country of contrasts!
Wednesday, July 2
1:45 PM From Triangular Christianity comes this call to service outside of the four walls of our churches:
The default position of many (most?) churches is that a spiritually formed person will be very involved in the institution of the church (and not the other church across town, but our church!): attend the building. Give many to the building. Serve in the building. Invite people to the building. Do everything for the building. As McNeal summarizes, “we have made following Jesus all about being a good church member.” But is this what it means to follow Christ?
Read more about missional church membership. This is a far cry from, "We need to know who's on our rolls!" Call for the purging of exaggerated church rolls if you like, but I'll stick to calling people to radical discipleship.
10:15 AM "Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ." Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Fellow bloggers, I am profoundly convinced that we American evangelicals are facing our biggest opportunity since the Reformation for making disciples worldwide. Yet we are forfeiting it because there is too little engagement and too little burden for massive cooperation. Christianity demands that truth be done and not only known. Are we willing to follow the Lord of the harvest wherever He should lead us, even into dangerous places? I am asking myself this question afresh today.
8:44 AM From my trip diary # 11:
Tuesday, June 17, somewhere between Dilla and Burji. Am just now traveling to Burji. The mountains, the sky, the greenness -- my God, it's beautiful. Today in faraway America Becky's mother is visiting the farm. Ironic -- she the missionary to Ethiopia is in Virginia, and I'm in her old stomping grounds! I can see why Becky's parents loved Burji so much.
On this trip I have been reading a biography of Spurgeon. I was struck by the fact that he was rarely in normal health and was often hindered by sickness. During my stay in Ethiopia I have had constant headaches caused by the change in barometric pressure. I can always tell when a storm is coming! I have felt unwell for most of the trip but -- thank God -- I've never been too tired or too sick to cancel an appointment. Still, I have never had a more arduous journey than the one I am now enduring. Our Isuzu truck is rarely out of first gear, the road is so bumpy. Even worse is witnessing the burned out villages and displaced people, the result of the tribal wars now taking place. Still, I am glad to be going back to Burji!
8:32 AM Jeff Neipp reflects on what he has learned since he graduated from SEBTS nine years ago. He wants to be a simple "Jesus follower." So do I!
8:24 AM 10 random things I'm enjoying right now:
1) Watching the ducks on the pond.
2) Reading Douglas's The Nonviolent Cross.
3) Sipping out of my new coffee cup from Matt and Liz.
4) Planning for my fall trips.
5) Listening to Dupre's Cortege et Litanie.
6) Grading my last term paper (an extension had been granted).
7) Ordering books on Amazon.
8) Going through my trip diary.
9) Praying for Nate and Jessie as they serve at the camp.
10) Enjoying watching Becky as she does all her little projects around the house.
8:12 AM From my trip diary # 10:
Friday, June 13, Addis Ababa. I just returned from a meeting with the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, H.H. Abune Paulos. The patriarchal palace is located on a hill overlooking the city. A new building houses the country's archbishops in well-furbished apartments. Providentially, a year ago I had an invitation from the dean of the EOC seminary in Mekele to teach Greek there but had to decline. Enthusiasm for ecumenism is as much evident in Ethiopia as it is in the West and is of grave concern among the religious hierarchy. I understand that a large number of Orthodox believers are determined to reinforce the confessional stance of their church from an earlier period of history. Others are interested in dialoging with non-Orthodox in order to improve social conditions in Ethiopia. My meeting with the Patriarch went exceptionally well. Paulos is a Princeton-trained theologian (Ph.D.) and speaks fluent English. He was imprisoned for 6 years during the Communist reign of terror in Ethiopia, during which time the then-ruling Patriarch was executed by the government. Paulos has sought to use his office to improve relations between Ethiopia and Sudan and Eritrea. I hope to meet with him again when I return in November.
Earlier in the day I met with Archbishop Timoteos, the dean of Holy Trinity College, the main EOC seminary in Addis. I was able to donate several of my Greek books to their library (which is 90 percent in English). Timoteos, along with his associate dean, Abba Haile Mariam, are keen on improving their Greek instruction and getting ideas for their new Ph.D. program in theology. I was glad I could offer a few suggestions.
Wherever I go in Ethiopia and with whomever I speak, I try to be very careful about how I represent Jesus. The way of Jesus is not Western liberal democracy in which everyone seeks self-interest through a market economy. It is not a religious organization. It is a people marked by the Beatitudes, forsaking all lusts, giving up security, refusing to amass wealth, insisting upon love of enemies. Christ existed in the form of God yet He refused to exploit His equality with God, but emptied Himself. In that spirit Jesus ministered to all men and women -- even to the outcasts, even to those it was considered a big taboo to associate with. Jesus refused to submit to such taboos, and so do I!
Tuesday, July 1
11:12 PM Becky prepared a most beautiful table this evening for supper. Here's proof:
7:04 PM Nate and Jessie stopped by for lunch today. Becky had prepared some deeelicious barbeque sandwiches. Jessie's foot is still very sore but she's the world's ultimate trooper. Nate gave us a full report of how the children's camp went last night. He and Jessie are giving the kids a full-court press of love and attention, yet also requiring good behavior. Didn't take them long to earn the kids' respect. After lights out, Nathan told the boys "Henny, Jenny, and Penny" stories. Years ago I invented these 3 chickens, whose adventures regaled our own children during our many camping trips. There's no telling what kinds of trouble HJP will face, or how they will get out of it. I had a blast listening to Nate describe their latest adventure, including a cameo appearance by Babbit the Wabbit.
Meanwhile, our missionary guests are finishing up their stay here. Father and son woke up early this morning and caught a couple of big ones in our pond. Nate taught Joseph how to clean them, while their daughter got a kick out of making the mouths "talk." The Mosses leave here tomorrow for northern destinations, including DC, Pennsylvania (and Gettysburg), Ohio, then a trip out West to settle down in Southern California, whence they came. Alfie hopes to teach some Greek during their home assignment. I hope that works out for him; he loves the language.
8:50 AM If we do launch another middle-eastern war in the coming months, let's place the blame squarely where it should be laid: on Congress. Thankfully, there's an alternative to our one-party system. And it has everything to do with our Constitution:
Neither of the two major parties has any interest in bringing our troops home. No matter which of those parties wins the White House, our troops would continue to be used for U.N. missions all over the world. They would continue to stick our nose wherever it does not belong. They would continue our utopian plans of nation-building, empire-building and international meddling. When I become President empire building and playing policeman of the world will come to an immediate halt and the United States of America will once again begin conducting itself as the Republic it was meant to be.
Have we learned nothing from the Crusades, when we slaughtered the infidels and conquered heathen lands, torturing heretics to save their immortal souls? Am I naive to weep with Jesus in hoping that present Jerusalems might know the things that make for peace? If you think that peace has moved to front and center in my life and witness, you're not far off!
8:27 AM From my trip diary # 9:
Wednesday, June 18, Burji. My last week in Ethiopia. I am seeking to remain focused. "Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts will be established" (Prov. 16:3). Good counsel as I meet with the civil administration today regarding the health clinic. How easy it is to be so active in service that we forget the One who ministers in and through us! I find it dreadfully difficult to maintain a time with God -- to "commit my works to the Lord" -- in the midst of such a busy schedule. Things move so fast that my soul is often left behind. Then my service becomes an empty parody of the real thing. O Lord, let me be led by Your Spirit each day I am here in Burji, and let my service to You be not mine but Yours through me.
7:39 AM From my trip diary # 8:
Thursday, June 19, Burji. This morning I leave to preach among the Gujis. No Burji can accompany me -- I am told the situation is still too dangerous for that. My Bible reading this morning (2 Tim. 2:1-10) contained this verse: "Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory." The only final solution to the Burji-Guji conflict is a spiritual one. Paul was able to endure his Roman chains because he knew that God's work was continuing among the elect, whose salvation will bring them eternal glory. Paul -- always the evangelist! I would be the same, whether among the Alabas, the Oromos, the Burjis, the Amharas, or the Gujis.
Here's the first Guji home I encountered during my trek. It belonged to a Christian family with 9 children.
Inside we enjoyed coffee and bread, then the family broke out in spontaneous singing, praising God in beautiful Gujinya. They made me feel like a member of the family. I shared with them that I have 9 Ethiopian children, one of whom is in prison for murder. We thus share similar burdens.
The meeting hall is very simple and practical. Soon the word got around that a faranji had come to talk to them about Jesus.
The ladies and girls from the villages gathered first. I noted a girl who had Downs Syndrome (she is on the far left) and reflected that God not only blesses Westerners with such priceless human beings.
I brought a very simple message through my translator, who is an auto mechanic in the town of Agre Mariam. He sacrificed two days of his time and energy to accompany me. Our polite audience remained seated for 3 hours as various ones spoke. When we were done I suppose about 60-70 Gujis had gathered at the church site to hear the Gospel of peace.
How can I describe the effect my trip to the Gujis had on me? I worked in concert with believers from different denominations who have an ambition to preach Christ where He is not widely known. I rarely see in America this kind of unity, for it is forced by the onslaught of a very real foe. Like the church at Smyrna, the Guji church is pressed by tribulation, but her Lord took account of the faithfulness she had in trial. It is clear to me that the American church stands self-condemned for its worship of denominations and lack of cooperation, not to mention its mindless support of war making.
Yesterday Becky spoke to a Burji church leader by phone. He reports that the situation is still very tense. Last Friday a believer in a Burji village was shot and killed by a Guji. The church leader asked us to hold a peace conference in the Guji region when we return in November. I (along with maybe one other faranji) will hike from village to village and then hold a meeting on the border where Gujis and Burjis can meet. The leader hopes a spirit of repentance and reconciliation will fall upon the region.
I am already praying about the peace conference. The peace we will be talking about will not merely be the absence of conflict. Peace is found where there is wholeness in relationships between people and with God. It is a dynamic situation in which people struggle through real (not imagined!) conflicts in ways that yield reconciliation rather than separation. Meanwhile, please join Becky and me in praying for the family of the leader who was killed and for the killer -- in fact, for all these precious souls, Burjis and Gujis alike.