P & T and Purpose Driven Life

This week OCC is sponsoring the annual Preaching-Teaching Convention. P & T is kind of like a homecoming. Our campus will be invaded by people from many parts of the U.S. Classes will not meet either on Tuesday or Wednesday, resuming Thursday morning. While we were on the mission field, there were about 18 years that we were unable to attend this convention. Our first convention after that hiatus was a special treat. We have become accustomed to it, but it is really a good convention. This year should be as well. Guest speakers coming in include Dave Ferguson from Community Christian Church in Naperville, IL, David Faust from Cincinnati, OH, Jeff Vines from Savannah, Georgia, Ben Merold from St. Charles, Missouri, as well as others more frequently connected to the college.

Our home church, College Hts. Christian Church, just kicked off a 40 Days of Purpose program. In services this weekend, members participated in a 2-hour long multicast by Rick Warren. I have done some reading in Warren’s Purpose Driven Church, but (it may be embarrassing to admit this) I have not read through the Purpose Driven Life all the way. We will be leading a small group in our home on Thursday evenings. I have resisted leading a small group for the past several years, as I have been pretty busy with my doctoral work (I gave up Wednesday night service). I thought that I should consent to lead one of these groups, so I did. They wanted groups consisting of 7-10 adults. Ours has 13, so I declared it “closed.” We should have a pretty good mix: a couple young married couples, some mid-life singles, some married couples our age, and a bit younger. I am looking forward to it.

Let me comment a bit on the multicast. It was a thoughtfully produced video presentation of an introduction to the book, that the Christian exists for the purpose of:

  1. Worship
  2. Fellowship
  3. Discipleship
  4. Mission
  5. Evangelism

I had read some criticisms of Rick Warren before watching the multicast. I would categorize as coming from one of two positions:

  1. Staunch Restorationist Arminianism. If being a life-long member of the Stone-Campbell movement makes me a Restorationist, I suppose I am one. If forced to commit to take a Calvinistic or an Arminian position, I would be much more inclined to land on the Arminian side. At the same time, my brief incursion into graduate education at an interdenominational educational institution at Columbia International University introduced me to J. Robertson McQuilkin, who liked to describe himself as a Calviminian. I like that, and have used it to describe a position that chooses not to be locked in to a specific theological perspective, but rather (to quote McQuilkin again), “to live along the golden mean of Biblical tension.” Therefore, when I read a fierce criticism of Rick Warren that is written from that polemic stance, I prefer to cut him some slack.
  2. Strict Fundamentalism. I once knew a minister who over a period of about 12-15 years who seemed to draw the circle of the truly redeemed so tightly that I wondered whether or not there was room for anyone else in the group except for himself. As I read this particular criticism of Rick Warren’s book, I was reminded of that minister. A constant diet of such a polemic spirit may produce cerebral Christians who trust more in their cerebral capabilities than they do in the redeeming work of Christ. I choose not to participate in such wars.

Should one believe that I no longer believe in absolute truth? Absolutely not! So far I have successfully resisted the temptation to drink the postmodern kool-aid. I believe in what Francis Schaeffer called Truth truth. However, whereas I may find some tendencies in Warren’s book with which I disagree, I refuse to look upon him as the enemy. Those of us who name the name of Christ have a common enemy (1 Peter 5:8). I refuse to act as if my brother in Christ were my enemy, regardless of however right I may be when compared to his wrongness. Perhaps I came to this position after having lived for years on a mission field, but I figured out long ago that anyone who is a son of my father must be my brother. Warren is a Baptist, and I am not, but we are fighting on the same side! I used to enjoy arguing with Baptists! I stopped participating in that sport a long time ago. That reminds me of some very good friends, who, years ago took their youngest child out of the public school system and put him in a private Baptist school. Several years later when he (as an adult) became a Baptist, it caused no small amount of anxiety. Talking with them, I remember saying, “I can think of a lot of things that would be worse than becoming a Baptist!”

One more comment, and then I will quit. In the Warren multi-task, there were some very moving baptismal scenes. Warren talked about watching videos of baptisms and being moved to tears. He came across as genuine. He was moved, as was I. Though videos of baptisms that take place at our church are not as beautiful (our baptistery is your basic water tank, whereas the Purpose Driven video showed beautiful baptismal pools as well as baptisms in the ocean), they are at the same time every bit as moving.

I may comment more on this in the coming weeks. If I find something that I think needs to be corrected, I may mention that. The purpose of the church though is to get unsaved people into a relationship with Jesus. And that trumps pointing out the doctrinal errors of those that we ought to treat as brothers.

Our speaker at Perspectives last Monday night (Dr. Jim Frost from Southwest Baptist University) taught at a Baptist college in California many years ago. Rick Warren was one of his students. He told us that he could tell us some Rick Warren stories. He refrained, except to say that Rick Warren had TP’d his home. I hope that by now Warren has grown up. 🙂



Grandchildren–A Heritage from the LORD

I’m paraphrasing the Psalmist in the title of this post:

3 Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Ps 127:3). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Eli (the one with the bucket for a hat) is almost 2 years old. Nathan (future first baseman for the Chicago Cubs) will be 4 this summer. The boys are coming to Joplin on February 27.

I think they are adorable. Don’t you?

I hope you all have a very nice day!


Basketball, Baseball, Perspectives (Missions) & GNT

Basketball. Quin Snyder was a high profile signee as Norm Stewart’s successor as head coach of the Missouri Tigers. He was mentored by Coach K at Duke, and things looked great for MU’s upcoming basketball glory. Over the past few years, there was no small scandal, primarily involving transfer students from the College of Southern Idaho. Quin’s days are now over, and as a Tiger fan or sorts, I am looking forward to improvement. I think Mizzou has had some top-flight talent, but in my opinion, Quin has not known how to get players to maximize their potential.

I have friends for whom OSU refers to The Ohio State University, but around here, OSU means Oklahoma State University. The head coach there, Eddie Sutton, is on a leave of absence, apparently related to a substance abuse problem. He went through the Betty Ford center years ago. He has 794 career wins. Early indications from the university have stated that he will receive credit for any wins the team gets under the leadership of Sean Sutton, his son, believing that 800 career wins will insure that he make it into the Basketball Hall of Fame. I don’t know Coach Sutton, but sincerely hope that he can get help for his substance abuse problem.

The Midwest Christian College Conference Basketball Tournament started this morning on our campus. Our men’s team, thanks to some other teams that knocked off conference favorite, Manhattan (KS) Christian College, won the conference championship out right, and gained the number 1 seed for the tournament. They have a bye tonight, and need to win tomorrow, to play for the conference championship (probably against Manhattan) on Saturday afternoon. I will be on the game clock for seven games, working the two prime time games tonight, the last three tomorrow, and then the championship games on Saturday. Go OCC!

Baseball. Good-bye, Sammy! I used to be your fan. Will Sammy Sosa make it into the Hall of Fame? He is already in my Hall of Shame! I have a number of Sammy Sosa bobble head dolls, including one my son got for me in a Tulsa Drillers uniform. Sammy’s name should be spelled SaMMMMMEEEEEE, as that appears to be what you are about. $500,000 a year for Sammy adds up to humiliation. Sammy, you have forgotten whence you came. The little boy who polished shoes for a few pesitos has one of the largest heads in all of professional baseball. As a life-long Cub fan, I cheered. I was ready for you to leave a year ago. I thought you would do well in Baltimore. You did not. I thought you might go to Japan, but I guess I was wrong on that count. I work hard for my paycheck. My annual family income is pittance compared to what you call a humiliation. Get real, Sammy! You don’t have a clue!

Perspectives (Missions). I am the prof of record for our Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course, and have enjoyed it very much. I found out late last week that one of the teachers lined up will not be able to do the class, so I will teach Week 11, titled Bridges of Love. Another course I am teaching is called Cross Cultural Mission Trips, which will culminate in a trip to Costa Rica during our Spring Break/Week of Evangelism. There will be six of us on the trip, and I’m looking forward to it.

Greek New Testament. I am immensely enjoying my reading through the GNT this year. I am into the gospel of Mark now, through mid-April on my schedule. It has been a blast.

Chapel. One more thought, then I’ll close. Our chapel speaker today brought a message from Luke 15. In it, he referenced Henri Nouwen’s work, and the purchase he made of Nouwen’s book in a monastery in Georgia. The monk working in the bookstore told him that the book was improperly titled, and should have referred to the Prodigal Father. The term does apply to the father’s actions in Luke 15. Generally we think that the term prodigal refers to someone who is reckless or wayward in lifestyle. An accepted meaning of the word is generous:

1prod•i•gal \ˈprä-di-gəl\ adjective
[Latin prodigus, from prodigere to drive away, squander, from pro-, prod- forth + agere to drive — more at pro-, agent]
(circa 1520)
1 : recklessly extravagant
2 : characterized by wasteful expenditure : lavish
3 : yielding abundantly : luxuriant — often used with of 〈nature has been so prodigal of her bounty —H. T. Buckle〉
synonymy see profuse
— prod•i•gal•i•ty \ˌprä-də-ˈga-lə-tē\ noun
— prod•i•gal•ly \ˈprä-di-g(ə-)lē\ adverb
2prodigal noun
: one who spends or gives lavishly and foolishly

Merriam-Webster, I. (1996, c1993). Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. Includes index. (10th ed.). Springfield, Mass., U.S.A.: Merriam-Webster.

Aren’t you glad we have a prodigal father?

Peace be with you all!



Well, it’s IFW (that’s International Focus Week, for those of you in Río Linda). Since I am the professor of record for the Perspectives course, we continue in the same vein all week. Our guest speaker last night in Perspectives was Phil Luckett, affiliated with Bob Sjogren’s Unveiling Glory ministry. Wait, it’s not about Bob, or Phil, or Kevin, or any of their other speakers, it’s about God! Phil is an NFL referee, who has done some big games, and has been involved in no small amount of controversy. He spoke at Perspectives in Springfield, MO during the Super Bowl! I was impressed by that. I watched the Super Bowl, and was glad that I didn’t have class that night. Well, this coming Sunday evening is the Pro Bowl from Honolulu, and our speaker from last night will be working that game. Normally I have no interest in watching a Pro Bowl, but I’ll watch some it this one!

IFW kicked off today. Jon Weece, Sr. Minister of Southland Christian Church in Lexington, KY spoke in chapel. What a fine young man! Jon became the Sr. Minister there about 4 years ago, at the age of 29!!! I had him as a student in the Spring of 1995, my first year teaching at OCC. I could tell that he was going to be a good one.

Tomorrow IFW kicks off with an International Breakfast at 8:00 AM, then workshops meeting the rest of the morning. I will meet at 7:00 with my Greek class, but my other classes will not meet tomorrow. Corey Scott (son of my boss, and a member of my son’s band from yesteryear, Brother John) came to play bass guitar. He is Worship Minister at Northside Christian Church in Springfield, MO. Ed Holt (formerly a co-worker in Chile) is the Sr. Minister at Northside. Corey is just a cut above most bass guitarists I know. I enjoyed listening to him play today.

I was especially moved by one of the songs sung in worship:

And I am with You always
And I am with You always
For all this life and even in death
I am with you always

Go and find a world where
My name has never been said
And say it there
Let it ring like a song
Ring like a song
Go and find a world
Where My face has never been shown
And show it there
Let it shine like the sun
Shine like the sun

Go and find a world
Where My word has never been said
And say it there
Let truth fall like the rain
Fall like the rain
Go and find a world
Where My love has never been shown
And show it there
With a love that is pure
A love that is pure

I am with you always
And I am with you always
For all this life and even in death
I am with you always
Always always

Music and lyrics by Jami Smith
© 2001 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music
CCLI# 3423002

Jon Weece likened the movement of God to falling rain, alluding to Elijah’s prediction of torrential rain after three and a half years of drought in 1 Kings 18. As an illustration, he pulled out a rain coat and put it on. As God’s people pronounce God’s word to a world where it has not been said, “may truth fall like the rain.” And remember:

καὶ ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ μεθ᾽ ὑμῶν εἰμι πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας ἕως τῆς συντελείας τοῦ αἰῶνος.

Aland, B., Aland, K., Black, M., Martini, C. M., Metzger, B. M., & Wikgren, A. (1993, c1979). The Greek New Testament (4th ed.) (Mt 28:20). Federal Republic of Germany: United Bible Societies.

Peace to all!


On Library Books (In-Print and Electronic)

Thirty years ago my wife and I embarked on a journey of missionary service. From 1976-1994, we made many trips back and forth. I have shipped items from here to there, and back several times (we took an extended furlough in the mid-1980s). My library is probably my most prized possession, and took top priority in our inter-continental moves. Since returning to the U.S. in 1994, however, the composition of my personal library has changed radically. Though I have added a number of “in-print” books, my library has increased substantially by adding electronic resources.

My laptop computer weighs about six pounds, but has over 1,000 full-text, searchable books on the hard drive. I love the in-print books in my library, but were I to move 8-10 thousand miles away, I might be persuaded to leave some of them back home, and use my electronic library. In the past I have literally spent hundreds of dollars transporting my library (my tools) around the world. I have carried my laptop around the world with me as carry-on luggage.

Not only do I have a laptop computer, loaded with books, but I also use a handheld computer. I currently have a Dell Axim x50v, loaded with quite a few resources. On my Pocket PC, I have 8 English Bibles, 3 Spanish Bibles, various devotional books, notes from 2 study Bibles, the Greek New Testament, an exhaustive concordance and Greek and Hebrew lexicons. One of my English Bibles is the NET Bible, which in its print edition has over 2,500 pages with over 60,000 translation notes. Anymore, when I go to church (or to chapel), my Pocket PC is the only Bible I usually carry.

I would encourage each and every student to consider adding electronic books to their personal library. Though the 1,000+ books on my laptop are spread out across several Bible study software packages, my favorite package these days (both because of what is currently available and because of what is projected for the future) is the Libronix Series X Library System from Logos Bible Software. I am really excited about some of the original language products that will be available for Libronix in the near future, including:

  • Two new databases for the Greek New Testament, capable of clause-level syntactical analysis (OpenText.org Syntactically Annotated Greek New Testament, and the Lexham Syntactic Greek New Testament)
  • A database for analysis of the Hebrew Old Testament (Anderson-Forbes Phrase Marker Analysis of the Hebrew Bible)
  • The ESV English-Greek Reverse Interlinear New Testament

OCC students will have an opportunity to purchase Libronix software at a 40% discount for a two-week long period beginning February 27. No interest payment plans can be spread out over a 6-month period (there is a $5/month service fee). This is a great opportunity to acquire books at a price much below the cost of their in-print cost. Students will be receiving information soon in their mailbox.

There are some free or nearly free Bible software packages available, that may be worth mentioning. BiblePro for Windows has a free downloadable version, or will send a CD for a nominal charge. E-Sword is freely downloadable, and has versions for both Windows and for Pocket PC. A problem with free software packages is that the selection of books is generally composed of texts that are in the public domain. Many of them are excellent, but newer works are not available. One more free option is worth mentioning. A company called E4 puts periodically makes a CD full of resources for a nominal handling fee. I have purchased several of them

I use electronic Bible study resources every day. If I can help you in a similar quest, please don’t hesitate to give me a call.


Logos Bible Software: http://www.logos.com/

Laridian Bible Software (Handheld): http://www.laridian.com/

Olive Tree Bible Software (Handheld): http://www.olivetree.com/

BiblePro for Windows: http://www.bibleocean.com/

E-Sword: http://www.e-sword.net/

Free Bible Study Software: http://www.freebiblesoftware.com/

Through Two Weeks of Classes

We have been in class now for two weeks, and I have let two weeks go by without adding any random thoughts to this blog. I decided that I would put something down here, so that the two people that occasionally look at this site would know that I am still alive.

Classes that I teach–I like my classes this semester. I have reduced numbers in my classes this semester (that usually happens during the Spring Semester), but the students that I have are doing a great job so far. I’m very pleased with my Greek students. It is a smaller class, which makes it impossible for a student to hide. They better come to class prepared, or they will be exposed. With a larger class, it is possible for a student to make an attempt at being invisible. My Greek students are working hard, and are coming to class prepared each day–a huge improvement over last semester!

Diet and Fitness–I have continued watching my diet and getting more exercise. I go to Nitro Fitness at least three times per week. I was there this morning. The Joplin Nitro Fitness has been open for about 4 weeks. I noticed on the white board that they will put rankings for those who lose the greatest amount of body fat, and gain the greatest amount of muscle mass. I normally might have gone yesterday, but I had some lower back discomfort, so I stayed away from there yesterday. This morning when I woke up, it felt better, so I went ahead and worked out. I have also been playing basketball and racquetball with greater regularity. Last Monday, several of the faculty members played some ball right before lunchtime. We played man-to-man defense, and I ended up guarding (and being guarded) by one of my younger colleagues who is in great shape. I had guarded him once about a year ago, and found at that time that he could pretty easily. He didn’t dribble past me once on Monday. I felt like I was just about a half-step quicker, which pleases me. I’ve been getting beat in racquetball, but hadn’t played in several years. I’m getting better, though.

Bible Reading Plans–I have been enjoying my Bible Reading. I am using The One Year Bible published by Tyndale. I do my English Bible reading on my Pocket PC, using the Daily Reader by Laridian, which enables me to do the Tyndale scheduled reading in any Bible translation I have on my system. That allows me to read in the English Standard Version, which I am enjoying a lot. The ESV, published by Crossway books, splits the difference between the very literal New American Standard Bible, and the very readable New International Version. Though as a Greek professor, I don’t encourage students to use Interlinear Bibles, Crossway and Logos Bible Software will be releasing a Reverse Interlinear based on the ESV. Crossway’s website describes it:

This state-of-the-art reverse interlinear New Testament, created in partnership with Logos Research Systems, breaks with the convention of traditional interlinear texts by keeping the English as the top line entry and placing the Greek text underneath it. This approach allows you to see firsthand the accuracy with which the translators of the English Standard Version of the Bible (ESV) rendered the Greek text.

The ESV is an “essentially literal” translation of the Bible, emphasizing word-for-word accuracy and precision along with literary beauty and readability. The publishers of the ESV have partnered with Logos Research Systems, the premier Bible research software developer, to publish this helpful resource. It will benefit anyone from serious Bible scholars to those who simply desire to study the English text of the New Testament as closely as possible to the original.

Valuable Resources Included

  • Gloss dictionary based on the transliterated inflected Greek
  • Strong’s numbers for effective cross-referencing to other study tools
  • Morphology of each word
  • Transliterations of all Greek words for easy pronunciation
  • Free electronic version of the ESV on CD-ROM
  • Additional ESV text and study tools

Greek Bible Reading–I created two calendars to enable me to read through the entire Greek New Testament during 2006. It has been a joy! I’m a bit disappointed in myself that I had never done it (or even thought about doing it!), but it has been great fun. I decided to begin with the gospel of John and his epistles, then start in with Matthew and read through the rest of the New Testament. My first schedule called for me to read John and 1-2-3 John by February 15. The second plan was to begin with Matthew on February 16, finishing Revelation on December 31. Currently I am way ahead of schedule, having already read the prescribed portion through February 22. I read the Greek New Testament generally in one of two formats:

  1. In my Libronix Bible Software, through which I created the calendar.
  2. On my Pocket PC, equipped with Gramcord Lite.

Each of those options are equipped with an easy way to check a lexicon for the words that I don’t recognize right off. In Libronix, I right click on a word I don’t recognize, and choose the option “Display information.” That is linked to the entry for that word in BAGD. In Gramcord Lite, the lexical gloss is not as sophisticated, but is adequate for rapid reading of the text. I’ll include a photo I took from my Pocket PC just this morning:

The photo shows the word σκυθρωποί as occurs in the text of Matthew 6:16. The lower portion of the screen gives the lexical form of the word, parses it (this particular word is very easy to parse–my first semester Greek students could do it easily), and gives a gloss with the English meaning, that comes from Barclay Newman’s Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament.

Another excellent resource that can be used for rapid reading of the Greek New Testament is a text by Zondervan: A Reader’s Greek New Testament, that includes a gloss with the meaning of every word that is used 30 times or fewer in the Greek New Testament, enabling the reader to look at the bottom of the page to get the meaning of a word he/she might not recognize right away.

High School Basketball–I went to my first high school basketball game of this season last night. Rose was gone to a retreat. I had wanted a chance to see Kyle Schrage play at least once as a high schooler. Kyle is a 6’8″ senior center at Carl Junction High School. I had the privilege of travelling to Thailand last March with Kyle and his parents, Mike and Karolyn Schrage. Mike is with Good News Productions, International. Kyle was born on the mission field in Kenya. When his older sister, Kathryn, was about 14 years old, I coached her at an OCC Basketball camp. Kyle has signed a letter of intent to play college basketball at Missouri Southern State University here in Joplin. He had a good game last night, scoring 20 points while sitting out the entire 4th quarter. He had one dunk that electrified the crowd in the first half. Good game, Kyle!

Perspectives on the World Christian Movement–I am the professor of record for our Perspectives course. That should be great! I’ve got some housekeeping duties to take care of today. Our next class session will be Monday nights, with Dr. Ron Blue from Dallas Theological Seminary/CAM International.

That’s it. I have more random thoughts, but I save them for a later day.

Blessings to you all!


Weekend Reprieve Before Taking the Plunge

I’m writing these words (the term penning does not work here, since I have no pen in my hands) from the home of David & Jennie Smith in Allen, TX. Jennie is the oldest of my wife’s two sisters, and it is a bit scary how much alike the three of them are. Actually, the home in reality belongs to my niece, Michelle, allegedly “won” from her parents in a game of Sorry, information obtained from perusing the subject of my next paragraph (Smith 2005:69). We have spent lots of time with the Smith family over the years, in Indiana, Florida and now in Texas. We’ll have today (Saturday, Jan. 14) with them, celebrating the first birthday of Jack Mounger, son of Shannon nee Smith. Shannon graduated from high school in 1993, and then spent a school year in Chile as an exchange student. That coincided with our last year in Chile, during which time we spent lots of time with her, and during which time she acquired (not by playing Sorry, the dubious title of favorite niece.) Methinks that she has lost that title for good, now, but that is also the subject of my next paragraph, which begins now!

David Smith, Jr., formerly known in the family as Little Dave (an oxymoron to the extreme!) is the minister at Southwood Christian Church in Greenville, Texas. I was unaware until yesterday that he is a published author. His book, Life’s too Short to be an Underdog, and Other Spiritual Lessons I Learned from my Dog, came out just before Christmas. I did some reading in it, and it is a good read. I recommend it. Especially interesting is chapter 8, written about Ziggy, one of the Smith family dogs. I really can’t say that I remember Ziggy, but the story told about Ziggy, in which my oldest child Charissa has the role of an antagonist, has the ring of truth. We will get to see the author later today at his nephew’s birthday party. I understand that he admits that some of the stories are embellished for the sake of humor. My wife, Rose also has somewhat of a role of an antagonist, in which the niece formerly known as favorite is alleged to have referred to her as evil, thus losing that claim. Buy the book, read the book, I think you’ll like it.

In a couple hours we will visit our friends, Doug and Sharon Marks. They recently moved down to the Dallas area. Doug was my colleague at Ozark over the past 5½ years, and is now Vice President for Academic Affairs at Dallas Christian College. They will return to Joplin in a couple weeks to close on the sale of their home there.

Tomorrow we’ll go to church with Dave and Jennie, then head north. We’ll be in enrollment all day Monday, then Tuesday morning, at 7:00 AM, it’s back to Greek, where I will review what students forgot about Koine Greek over their 4-week hiatus, and begin work on the 2nd Aorist Active/Middle Indicative. Is anybody excited? It won’t be until a few days later that they will learn the 1st Aorist tense. Does that seem strange to you? It makes perfect sense to me!

Passing on to other mundane matters, we ate last night at Café de France, and I had a salad with blackened chicken. I am hoping out of fifth place in our 7-member family weight contest, without descending to sixth or seventh place. I will eat rationally today, and plan on drinking lots of water, to flush my system out. Since Sunday morning is our official weigh-in day, we brought our scales to Texas with us. Second mundane matter–Jack Bauer is not dead. I have not watched a television series when broadcast live for years. I have, however, become a viewer of Fox’s 24 (having recently watched the series on DVD–it is exciting and somewhat addictive.) Season five begins tomorrow night, with a two-hour start. It will continue on Monday with another two-hours, then I believe resume its normal Monday evening slot. A recent acquisition in our home is a DVR. I won’t be able to watch the series live, since most Monday evenings I will be in class, but the DVR is set to record the episodes. I imagine that I will find time to watch them sometime during the week.

The next time I write, I will be back into the full-swing of our Spring Semester. I hope an pray God’s best to you.

Until I have more random thoughts,


Reference: Smith, Dave. (2005). Life’s Too Short to Be an Underdog . . . and Other Spiritual Life Lessons I Learned from my Dog. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, Inc.

Ready to Start Again, and Resolutions for the Upcoming Year

Well, I’ve taken some time off from my blogging. This year we had a four week hiatus between semesters, which I have enjoyed to the max. We have one more week before we start back. This semester, I will be teaching the following courses at OCC:

  • Greek IB
  • Spanish II
  • Old Testament History II
  • Cross-Cultural Mission Trips
  • Perspectives on the World Christian Movement

The last two are non-traditional courses. The Cross-Cultural Mission Trip will actually end during our Week of Evangelism (traditionally called Spring Break in other educational venues). During that week, I will be leading a group of students on a short-term trip to Costa Rica. Early in the semester, the class will meet once per week, doing pre-field orientation and readings on cross-cultural work. After the trip, we will meet briefly for de-briefing, write a report, and have a celebratory event (party).

I will merely be the Professor of Record for the Pespectives course. Perspectives is a course offered nationwide in over 150 locations each year. This is our 3rd year to offer the course in the Spring Semester. I took the course for graduate credit from Trinity International University/Evangelical Divinity School in 2003 (though I had done many of the readings when I was in graduate school the first time in the 1980s). The University of Nebraska accepted that course (3 credits) as a part of my Ph.D program there. For our Perspectives course, we will have guest speakers come in each week, which we will share with our Springfield, MO site. A highlight this semester will be the inclusion of Dr. Ralph Winter as one of the guest lecturers. Dr. Winter is the founder of the U.S. Center for World Mission in Pasadena, California, and a primary author in the course reader. That will be a treat.

So, my three principal course assignments will be, once again, Greek, OT History, and Spanish.

Which brings us to Resolutions. I don’t usually like New Year’s Resolutions, but this year, I made resolutions in 3 primary areas:

  • Diet
  • Physical Fitness
  • Bible Reading

Back in August, I joined Weight Watchers Online. During the summer months, I saw my weight reach an all-time high that both shocked and scared me. My wife had dabbled in Weight Watchers for a while earlier, and tried to get me to commit to the program with her, but I resisted. So, when I saw my weight peak higher than ever before, I decided to do something about it. I dropped more than 30 pounds. The time from Thanksgiving through the New Year’s Holiday Weekend is a difficult time of the year for dieters. I wrote briefly about that a couple weeks ago. So, between Christmas and New Year’s, our family decided that we would have a weight loss contest. It started out just between my wife, Rose, and our daughters, Charissa and Kim, but Steve (Charissa’s husband) wanted in as well (At Legget & Platt, where Steve and Charissa work, they have weight loss contests frequently). Steve’s participation just about required mine as well. We visited our son, Greg over the New Year’s weekend. Both Greg and Emily (his wife) wanted in as well. So now, we have seven people in a 10-week competition. I am back on track with Weight Watchers Online. My variance from the low weight over the difficult period was 4 lbs., of which I have already dropped 2, so at this writing, I am now 2 pounds over my Weight Watchers low. Yesterday I ran into a young married couple that was on campus visiting from Washington state, where they now live. They had never seen me this light, and asked me what I was doing. That was gratifying, but that requires the second resolution: physical fitness.

I am basically lazy by nature. I do not understand runners. I can think of a hundred thousand things I would rather do than to get up early and run. Several of my colleagues run. I think that 3 of them have run marathons. I know that I don’t want to do that. When I was younger, I could handle running, if there was a ball involved. About 25 years ago, I can remember dribbling a basketball back and forth on our patio for 20 minutes, constantly moving. You couldn’t have coerced me into just running for 20 minutes. The addition of the basketball made it palatable. Now, though, I would just rather sit on the couch. The week between Christmas and New Year’s, a new fitness center opened up about 6 blocks from our house. It is called Nitro Fitness, and is a combination of Circuit Training and Core Training. It is designed to be the kind of fitness center, where clients have 24/7 access, and can get in a balanced workout in a little over 30 minutes. I decided to join, and have been there 5 times already. We’ll see what kind of results I get after six weeks. That component, combined with wiser nutritional intake, should be an aid.

Final resolution, that of Bible Reading. I’ve got a new twist here. I have frequently read through the Bible with one-year plans. We have used the One-Year Bible and One-Year Chronological Bibles in reading plans. That is nothing new. On my PDA, I have PocketBible, which comes with DailyReader, from Laridian. So this year I am reading through Tyndale’s One Year Bible. The neat thing by doing it on a PDA instead of a printed Bible, is that I can read the text in whatever version I have in my system. I have previously read through the Bible in the NIV, NASB and The Message. This year, I am reading it in the fairly new English Standard Version from Crossway. Logos Bible Software will be releasing a Reverse Interlinear based on the ESV later this year. You can see some references to that on Logos’ blog here or here. Still, that part of my Bible Reading Resolution is not too exciting. The truly revolutionary (for me!) resolution is the next part. I am ashamed to admit this in a public forum (for the 3 readers of this blog), but I need to make it public, in order to be held accountable. I teach first year Greek in a Bible College, and yet, I probably have never read the entire Greek New Testament. So . . . during 2006, I plan to read the entire Greek New Testament. I used the Bible Reading plan built into Libronix software to create a plan. Basically I can read the entire Greek New Testament at the rate of about 25 verses per day. I created two plans. The first plan (which concluded during the month of February) includes the Gospel of John and 1-2-3 John (usually considered to be easier Greek). When I finish that plan, I will begin again in Matthew, and then proceed straight through the New Testament (excluding the portions previously read), finishing Revelation by the end of the year. It has been exciting so far!

Since my mentioned our trip to Texas, I might as well include a photo taken of me with Eli, the younger of our two grandsons. He will be 2 in March, but is already manifesting some of the mood swings associated with 2 year old kids. He is cute, don’t you think?

Well, that’s about it for right now. I am currently reading Portable Dissertation Advisor, and Jim Garlow’s (2000) How God Saved Civilization: The Epic Story of God Leading His People, The Church.

No Room in the Inn

The Christmas story, according to Luke 2 begins like this:

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to his own town to register.

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Lk 2:1-7). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

No room in the inn. The poor innkeeper has taken it on the chin over the years. What a mean guy! If it had been a Motel 6, they would have left the lights on for Joseph and Mary. But it wasn’t a Motel 6, or even a Holiday Inn Express. The “inn” referred to was likely a guest room in a Palestinian home. The Greek word used was κατάλυμα, a word which is only used three times in the NT (Mark 14:4; Luke 22:11; and this verse, Luke 2:7). The other two times it is used (in parallel passages), it clearly means “guest room”. J. M. Diener notes, citing Terry Hulbert, who was Seminary/Grad School dean at Columbia International University while I was there, that “it would be strange that Luke would imbibe the same word with two different meanings, especially when he uses a different word (pandocheion) in 10:34 to describe an inn in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.” The context of Luke 10:34 shows that πανδοχεῖον clearly is an inn, as verse 35 mentions the innkeeper (πανδοχεύς). Both words are hapax legomena, but the attestation for πανδοχεύς as an innkeeper seems to be strong.

Freeman, in The New Manners and Customs of the Bible says this about the κατάλυμα:

It is doubtful that inns, in the sense of public inns with a building, existed in Old Testament times. By the time of Christ, public inns could be found in Grecian and Roman lands. The Greek word for “inn” in the New Testament implies some type of stopping place for travelers. At times it refers to a public inn. Such an inn of the first century consisted primarily of a walled-in area with a well. A larger inn might have small rooms surrounding the court. People and animals stayed together. The primary services that could be depended upon were water for the family and animals and a place to spread a pallet.

In addition to referring to a public inn or lodging place, the same Greek word, kataluma, used in our text-verse, at times refers simply to a guest room in a private home (Mark 14:14; Luke 22:11).

Freeman, J. M., & Chadwick, H. J. (1998). Manners & customs of the Bible. “Rewritten and updated by Harold J. Chadwick”–Cover.; Includes index. ([Rev. ed.].) (Page 500). North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers.

The stories of a malicious innkeeper make interesting material for Christmas pageants. What indicts Jesus’ contemporaries, however, is not so much malicious intent, as it is apathy or disinterest. God incarnate broke into human history (John 1:14) on that lonely night. Most of Bethlehem was clueless as to what was taking place. Only a few rag-tag shepherds even took notice of the event. By and large, the first Christmas came and went, and few had room in their hearts for Messiah. John indicts Jesus’ own for not receiving him (John 1:12). What is tragic is that the contemporary response to the reason for this season is still apathy. We would prefer to look at the December 26 store ads, to see how much we can save by spending beyond our means. We have shoved the Christ out of Christmas, by devoting our attentions elsewhere.

This morning, our family went to prepare breakfast for poor people at a local ministry called Watered Gardens. On a Sunday morning, that just happened to be December 25, a group of Joplin residents came out to get a hot breakfast served to them in the name of Jesus. It was a blessing to see those that work regularly in that outreach, loving people in the name of Jesus. My prayer is that they would find room for Christ in their hearts.

Max Lucado wrote from the traditional vantage point of the innkeeper, but ended up with an application that touches our response to the Christ:

Majesty in the midst of the mundane. Holiness in the filth of sheep manure and sweat. Divinity entering the world on the floor of a stable, through the womb of a teenager and in the presence of a carpenter.

She touches the face of the infant-God. How long was your journey!

This baby had overlooked the universe. These rags keeping him warm were the robes of eternity. His golden throne room had been abandoned in favor of a dirty sheep pen. And worshiping angels had been replaced with kind but bewildered shepherds.

Meanwhile, the city hums. The merchants are unaware that God has visited their planet. The innkeeper would never believe that he had just sent God into the cold. And the people would scoff at anyone who told them the Messiah lay in the arms of a teenager on the outskirts of their village. They were all too busy to consider the possibility.

Those who missed His Majesty’s arrival that night missed it not because of evil acts or malice; no, they missed it because they simply weren’t looking.

Little has changed in the last two thousand years, has it?

Lucado, M. (1987). God came near : Chronicles of the Christ (Page 24). Portland, Or.: Multnomah Press.

As I reflect on this Christmas day, I pray that our focus would be on Him, rather than on all the other stuff that grabs our attention. May He richly bless you the Christmas day!

A Dificult Time of the Year to Eat Sensibly

For the last several months, I have been trying to eat much more sensibly. I have been successful, and have shed some serious poundage. For the last couple weeks, with all the Christmas goodies, I have moved into a maintenance mode. Today, our family was at Silver Dollar City, and we had lunch at one of the nice buffet restaurants near the city square. Although I ate more for lunch today than what I normally have had for lunch, I was more sensible than other times. Still, I look forward to the end of the festivities, so I can get back to eating more sensibly, which means eating less. Though I weigh less today than what I have weighed at any time over the past ten years, I still have some poundage to drop before reaching my goal.

A few weeks back, a colleague spoke to me about a movie that he had seen. His commentary made me want to see it some time. Before we left town yesterday, I swung by the Joplin Public Library, and checked it out. It was documentary about the fast food industry, particularly about Mc Donald’s. The movie’s title was Super Size Me! Watching that movie made my resolve even stronger.
We will return to Joplin tomorrow in time for services at our church tomorrow evening. Mom and the nuclear family in the Joplin area will come to our house for Dinner tomorrow night after the service at church. Kim will work tomorrow (Christmas Eve Day) at Cracker Barrel from 8 AM until 3 PM or so, when they close. Many of the OCC students serve breakfast at Watered Gardens (a ministry that reaches out to poor people in Joplin) on Sunday mornings. Kim usually serves in some capacity at the ministry on Fridays, and coordinates in some way the OCC students that help out there. Since so many of them are gone, she has asked us to go serve breakfast this Sunday. The head of the ministry decided to keep the breakfast going, even though it is Christmas Day. The three of us will go there to serve breakfast to poor people at 7:30 AM. Later in the day then, we will have Christmas with our nuclear family at Charissa’s.

Van and Tammy Benson (Stef too) have been in Brownsville with Greg and Emily for the past week. Rose and I will be flying there next Friday afternoon. I will preach for Greg in Spanish on New Year’s Day.

Jesus is the reason for the season. Some intolerant persons may not like us to say so, but it is true. Christmas is not about the new PDAs or DVD players, or TIVOs that one might receive or even give, but rather is about the best gift of all times:

The Word became flesh and blood,

and moved into the neighborhood.

We saw the glory with our own eyes,

the one-of-a-kind glory,

like Father, like Son,

Generous inside and out,

true from start to finish.
John 1:14 (The Message)

May the Christ of Christmas be in your thoughts and words, and may He richly bless you. Merry Christmas!