Archive for March, 2006

Dogged Importunity

Don Cormack, in his book, “Killing Fields, Living Fields” recounts a powerful illustration of determined and effective prayer:

“One day, as I stood interpreting for one of the only two doctors at a place called Klong Wah where thousands needed immediate attention, a little lad of about eight came up to me calling, ‘Uncle, uncle, please come and help me carry my older brother over here where he can be given medicine.’ The boy explained that the brother, about twelve, was lying a good two kilometers away in the bush, unconscious in a malaria coma. But I could not just walk away from my responsibilities as interpreter and the enormous task I already had on my hands trying to care for hundreds of dying people right here…. How could I justify going so far and using up so much valuable time for just one?

The boy, however, would not be put off. He persisted in crying out after me, till I finally steeled myself and ignored him…. After about an hour of pleading, he fell silent, deep in thought. He knew that I was the only lifeline there was to save his brother’s life. Next thing, I felt a pair of sinewy arms grip me round the legs, and a pair of ankles lock around mine. And there he clung like a leech… His lips were sealed. He clearly was not going to let go his vice-like grip on my legs till they followed him to that place where his brother lay dying. I was thus compelled to go with him… His dogged importunity had gained him the victory.

I reflected as I pursued him through the trees that this was surely what serious believing Christian prayer was all about.

The older brother’s life was saved.”

The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. (James 5:16b NASB)


Total Eclipse

About 10 minutes ago, a spectacular total solar eclipse blackened the sky, just minutes before sunset. Maya took these excellent photographs right in front of our apartment. The second one was taken only a minute or two after the first. After the eclipse, the sunset was beautiful, though a little eerie.

Update 30-03-2006: In the comments, Alissa passed on a pretty cool analogy from her friend who witnessed the eclipse in Turkey. I am posting it here for those who do not normally read the comment pages:

In a nutshell: The light shines so bright, but is diminished by sinful men. As the darkness grows, we try to do other things to illuminate our way. During the eclipse, this was turning on porch lights, car lights, and other man-made devices. But none could be as bright as the sun (son?) when it returned in all its glory.

When the sun returned, many people clapped and cheered. Just as we all cheer knowing the real light and the real truth.

Iotas, Dots and Bytes

A question that came up recently prompted me to begin researching the doctrine of preservation of Scripture. At one point, I wanted to see how and where it is mentioned in the books of my Libronix library. This is why I like Logos software. I started with a general (simple) search: “doctrine of preservation”. Depending on how I keyed it in, the hits were either too scant or broad to be helpful. Another problem is that people refer to this teaching in different ways: preservation of Scripture, biblical preservation, preservation of the text, divine preservation, etc. So, I created a query that would find me what I needed, taking into account the varied terms. The graphical query looked like this:

I then applied the query (while adjusting the word-interval rate, ignoring the order and adding and deleting some terms) to certain books and journals like Bibliotheca Sacra and gradually to the entire library. I think that the query found most of the articles that touch on the topic, and the accuracy of the hits was very high. Most of the results were relevant. The best part is that all of this took about 15 minutes to complete. How long would that have taken with a print library?

The last time that I looked into this doctrine was in college almost 15 years ago, when some teachers purported a version of this teaching to promote one group of manuscripts, the Majority Text, above others (and by extension, one English translation). Now, it seems that that distracting controversy has waned. And what is really cool is that God continues to preserve his Word, every dot and iota.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. (Matthew 24:35 ESV)

The Peripeteia

My little winds of change rant sounded a bit disjointed. I wrote it after hearing the news that our team is shrinking by three: i.e., three of our teammates are quitting. They have their reasons, and we have no doubt that they are moving in the direction that they believe is best. For the work, the happy news is that three of us remain to carry things on, and three more plan to arrive sometime during the summer.

Still, we had to make some significant adjustments. We were planning to host a summer team from the West to help us run the three camps. We decided that it would be unwise to continue with those things with so few hands. So, we called off the team and two of the camps will get their official pink slips by the end of this week.

Not all is gloomy, though. The B. study will continue as it has. We are thankful for the fruit that we are seeing there. For the summer, our new plan is to host only the B. Seminar, where we hope to finish the teaching with the supremely good and glorious news. After that, we will focus on spending personal time with folks in the city and in their villages; mostly with those who attended the study, but also trying to make contact with new people. And for a week or two, I plan to help Ermen build his house here in the city (working like that is stellar for relationships).

Thank you for pr-ing for us (especially now) in all these things: for His wisdom and for continued fruit; for interest in the teaching and for patience and trust during transition. It is a good thing that we know Whom we have believed.

Update 02-04-2006: Two of the teammates that I referred to in the first paragraph did not appreciate my choice of the word ‘quit’. In fact, I was merely going for precision, and I meant nothing negative towards them personally. Something great for them is beginning. I should have been more sensitive and settled for the softer (though overused) phrasal ‘moving on’. We love and appreciate them very much, and we will surely miss them here.

Erasmus, Tyndale, and Pre-Modernism

I found this quote interesting in John Piper’s biographical speech on William Tyndale, titled, Always Singing One Note. While exploring the contrast between Erasmus and Tyndale, Piper made an astute observation about some ‘emergent’ churches and postmodern writers. Here is the quote (the section in italics is Piper quoting from David Daniell’s book about Tyndale):

“Listen to this remarkable assessment from Daniell, and see if you do not hear a description of certain emergent church writers and New Perspective champions:

Not only is there no fully realized Christ or Devil in Erasmus’s book . . . : there is a touch of irony about it all, with a feeling of the writer cultivating a faintly superior ambiguity: as if to be dogmatic, for example about the full theology of the work of Christ, was to be rather distasteful, below the best, elite, humanist heights. . . . By contrast Tyndale . . . is ferociously single-minded; the matter in hand, the immediate access of the soul to God without intermediary, is far too important for hints of faintly ironic superiority. . . . Tyndale is as four-square as a carpenter’s tool. But in Erasmus’s account of the origins of his book there is a touch of the sort of layering of ironies found in the games with personae.

It is ironic and sad that today supposedly avant-garde Christian writers can strike this cool, evasive, imprecise, artistic, superficially reformist pose [like Erasmus] and call it “post-modern” and capture a generation of unwitting, historically naïve, emergent people who don’t know they are being duped by the same old verbal tactics used by the elitist humanist writers in past generations… It’s not post-modern. It’s pre-modern—because it is perpetual.”

Yah, what he said… 🙂

The Winds of Change

It is a cliché and that is unfortunate. The overuse has dulled a vivid word picture. I was trying to figure out who first coined the phrase. The earliest that I could find (utilizing my amateur etymological skills) was the middle of the last century. Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his second inaugural address on January 21, 1957, brandished the phrase ‘winds of change’ while speaking about what he viewed as the beginning of the end of communism. He said;

Through the night of their bondage, the unconquerable will of heroes has struck with the swift, sharp thrust of lightning. Budapest is no longer merely the name of a city; henceforth it is a new and shining symbol of man’s yearning to be free.

Thus across all the globe there harshly blow the winds of change. And, we—though fortunate be our lot—know that we can never turn our backs to them.

Three years later in Cape Town, South Africa, the then Prime Minister of Great Britain, Harold Macmillan, while giving a speech about decolonization of Africa, made the phrase famous. He said;

The wind of change is blowing through this continent.

Googling ‘Winds of Change’ nets (according to my query) more than 39 million hits. Many of them have to do with the end of the Cold War. That, probably, is because of the song that the Scorpions wrote around the time that the Berlin Wall crumbled. Everyone knows the title: The Winds of Change.

They wrote:

The wind of change blows straight into the face of time


The future's in the air I can feel it everywhere blowing with the wind of change

The imagery, whether on the Dark Continent or down to Gorky Park, is of a sweeping, unrestrained and sometimes chaotic gale of moving circumstance and uncertainty. Most of us know the feeling of sails filled by the winds of change. And most of us dislike it.

I guess we should get used to it. After all, tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis (i.e. times change, we need to change with them), and the famous Heraclitian, nothing endures but change.

Change is uncomfortable, but it is often very good. Like here;

… For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:52 ESV)

It still lends an unsteady feeling. My hope rests in the fact that, while the winds of change keep blowing, there is someone who never, ever changes.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8 ESV)

There. That's better.

The Big 0-1!!!

Our little Hannah is almost all grown up now that she has become a one-year-old. A child’s first annual milestone is a great reason for adults to celebrate in this culture. For some reason, it is a really big deal. I think it started when life here was a lot harsher. A child’s first birthday meant that he had made it through his most fragile year. The harshness has eased, but the tradition lives on.

Random question: Want to see a picture of Hannah's one-year-old feet? 🙂

After the B. study tonight, we served dinner to about 16 people (friends, neighbors and those from the study), enjoyed ice cream, compared baby pictures and just chit-chatted the evening away. We had a great time.

Another tradition on the first-year mark is to shave the baby bald. It is a home remedy of sorts; the child’s hair is supposed to grow back thicker. Maya and I were not sure what to do, follow the culture, or just leave Hannah's pretty little head alone. I think we made the right decision, though I fear the following picture is bound to generate angry comments from my family :-).

Relax, it will grow back!!! Besides, it might prove interesting. You see, I have tons of photographic evidence to test whether this home remedy has merit, or is pure quackery.

In other news, the study went well. Eight people showed up. After singing several songs together, I taught on the first four days of Creation. They seem very interested in this teaching.