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Thursday, July 17

7:43 AM This and that ...

1) Writers take note: Distractions weaken your words. I wrote so much yesterday that even my words got tired.

2) Traveling to Ethiopia? Here's the greeting cadence.

3) John Piper's son on the dysfunction and conflict of his upbringing.

4) A very happy 62nd anniversary to Becky's parents, Brad and Betty Lapsley!

5) Some Island braddahs.

Hawaii no ka oe!

Wednesday, July 16

7:22 PM Go here to read a tear-jerker of a story.

5:55 PM The concept of "finishing well" has been the center of my thought life the past year or so, as you all well know. Thus I was so encouraged, while having lunch with one of my daughters today, that she seemed to think she noticed a major change in my emails to her and the family. "You seem to be doing so much better, dad." And she is right. I do feel I am doing better. Disruption, confusion, despair, inability to concentrate -- there are many faces of grief. Tears cloud your vision. Your mind can't sleep. Prior to the death of your spouse, your life was going in one direction. Now it seems like everything has changed. You continue to be the same person you were before, but your life will never again be what it was before. There's a hole in your life that only one person can fill, and she's not here. But here's what I have been discovering: You are still the same person, you're just traveling in a new direction. There is a "new normal." God still has a good plan for your life, but it's different from the one you've been used to for so long. I call it "Plan B."

By this I do not mean that Plan B is in any way inferior to Plan A. It's just not the one that you planned for your life. It's like passing through uncharted waters. But ever-so-gradually, those waters become more and more familiar. You begin to have more good days than bad ones. Your faith is stronger, too. You're taking baby steps to go on with your life. Little things that you once took for granted now mean the world to you: rain showers and salt water and fluted mountain ranges -- and lots and lots of love. You are beginning to heal, and you wouldn't have it any other way. The same God who makes sure that each chirping bird is fed daily cares for you. Even if the future is uncertain, you know, just know, that His new plan for your life is good because He is good.

My daughters have helped me to see this. Though they've never exactly put it into words, I can see it in their loving eyes: The God who took mom to heaven will fill your emptiness, dad. Let go and free yourself to move on. You're on your way Home. Yes, the homeward journey has been re-routed a bit, but one day you'll say hello again. Mom just went to the banquet table before you, that's all, dad.

I will always remember Becky. I remember the good as well as the bad, the happy times and the sad times. But it's beginning to be more of a historical remembering than an emotional tie. I'm beginning, just beginning, to invest the emotional energy I've spent grieving in other places.

Forget? Never.

Move on? Definitely.

All glory to God.

3:28 PM Just a brief word about the nature of this blog. (I'm using "brief" in the sense Einstein would: relatively.) As I put it to a pastor friend in Hawaii, "My blog can best be summed up in the words of 1 Cor. 14:3." Here Paul says that "the one who prophesies strengthens others, encourages them, and comforts them." Every time I hit the "send" button to upload a blog post, I ask myself, "Is what I have written either edifying, encouraging, comforting, or all three?"

The internet is awesome. For just a few bucks a month you can write practically anything you want to write and be read by practically anybody in the world. Please pray with me. Pray that my blog will be a source of inspiration to people who need it. Pray that it will lift up our awesome God. Pray that people who read it will go away saying to themselves, "Wow, what God has in store for me is more than I could ever imagine in my wildest dreams."

I'm ready to see God do great things.

3:16 PM Had a good discussion in Hawaii about the importance of elders in a local church. Not long ago my church "ordained" our three elders. But what is ordination? It is not the conferring of special grace (as in Catholicism). It is simply the setting apart, the commissioning, the consecrating to a particular ministry in the church. As such, ordination is not in contradiction with the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. In the body of Christ there is a principle of equality with functional differences -- without being hierarchical. From a scriptural perspective, a better word might be "dedication" or "consecration." Since all ministers in the body have the same purpose -- to serve Christ in the ministry of reconciliation -- all believers are to be dedicated or consecrated to their tasks. The danger we must avoid is to give the false impression that only these three men are somehow "in ministry." In Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4 we find lists of the spiritual gifts that the risen Christ has given to the church "for the work of ministry." The basic idea of ordination in early Christianity was not transference of authority but conferring a blessing and petitioning for divine favor. Because the church is a priesthood of all believers, the recognized ministry is a representative ministry. To belong to this representative ministry, it is the call that is important and not any rite of ordination.

Elders are overseers, but as members of the body of Christ they no doubt also have individual gifts that vary -- teaching, administration, etc. They are shepherds but, like the rest of us, they are also sheep. They are, as Phil. 1:2 reminds, not over the church but extensions of the church. Thus, from the beginning of church history, ordination has never been a cardinal doctrine of the church. Service is what the church is all about -- and all of us are to be servants of Christ. The doctrine of the priesthood of all believers would suggest that our elders should view themselves first and foremost as co-members of the body, under the authority of Christ. Together, leaders and led alike are unified in a Christ-centered and Spirit-filled ministry. In such a setting, ministry does not create a hierarchical organization. The total ministry is the body of Christ, and He alone remains the Head of the church.

Got it?

2:43 PM "Our little time of suffering is not worthy of our first night's welcome home in Heaven." -- Joni.

10:48 AM The perfect bed and breakfast in Kailua: The Lilikoi Cottage.

I highly recommend it if you're ever vacationing in the Islands. Only a block from the beach too. Beats Waikiki any day!

10:18 AM "One thing is supremely important; that all minister, and that nowhere is to be perceived a separation, or even merely a distinction, between those who do and those who do not minister, between the active and passive members of the body, between those who give and those who receive. There exists in the Ecclesia a universal duty and right of service, a universal readiness to serve, and at the same time the greatest possible differentiation of functions."  -- Emil Brunner (The Misunderstanding of the Church, p. 50).

Tuesday, July 15

2:35 PM I'm back home after taking a much-needed break from my work and my insatiable obsession with writing. Not surprisingly, the Lord had some wonderful surprises in store for me when I arrived in Hawaii last Monday. I still find the Islands uniquely enchanting. At the same time, Hawaii is changing, and not for the better (in my opinion). For one thing, Oahu is sinking under a mass of people and automobiles. As I see it, urban sprawl has invaded the island like a cancer. Kailua, my "quant little" home town, is so crowded it is barely possible to find a parking place. Then there's the housing crisis. When I was in high school I lived in an apartment down town. Today these apartments have been replaced by brand new buildings in which a one-bedroom condo starts at $700,000. Does that leave room for anybody trying to pay a mortgage to have any fun at the beach? I don't see how it does. But hey, I'm not here to complain! The bed and breakfast I stayed at was absolutely phenomenal. I spent every day surfing, and the waves happened to be really good. I surfed in the morning, swam laps, then surfed in the afternoon. Do you see how totally pathetic I am? Sure, I missed family and farm, but as compensation I enjoyed great physical stimulation.

Ministry-wise, my friends at Calvary Chapel did a great job of organizing our myth conference on Saturday, and the Sunday meetings were a real blessing. The Lord led me to bring an evangelistic message (which is rare for me -- I usually just teach on Sundays), and He brought over 18 people into His kingdom. For a God who has saved untold millions of people through the ages, this is an infinitesimally small number, but it is also beautiful, and He gets all the glory. As I met with pastors and others in the churches, I realized there is a need for people like me to do training in the Islands. As you probably know, I'm doing this already in several foreign countries. I told them I'm willing to come alongside their churches and help in any way I can. Which means I have a problem. I think there is work for me to do in Hawaii, but I have no idea how I can fit it into my hectic schedule. I have a hunch this will mean at least one trip there every year. I honestly would love to be more involved with training "my" people, and I appreciate the eagerness I saw among the pastors for more training, especially in the biblical languages.

Anyways, there's a trillion things I could discuss, but I'll just annotate a few photos and then take a long nap. My deepest thanks to all of you who prayed for me and sent me emails. Like I said before, I had no idea what to expect when I left for Oahu. I found myself just having an old-fashioned good time and not thinking too much about the past or the future. I felt so much at home there, and I think it had more to do with the first 19 years of my life than the past 7 days. It's not the first time I've felt a love for my Hawaiian ohana, and I pray it won't be the last. The bottom line is that despite Becky's absence everything is still right in my world. I find myself more in awe than ever with God's amazing creation, even though it's fallen. So here I am, back from the Islands, dazed after spending the night on a plane and amazed that God still has a good plan for my life. For all of this, I count myself blessed among men.

1) Kailua as seen from the Pali Lookout.

2) Famous (and treacherous) Mount Olomana. I hiked it several times as a youth.

3) My elementary school. It was on this field that I played "Taps" before the assembled student body when JFK was assassinated. I was only in the sixth grade.

4) "My" house in Kailua.

5) The infamous paddle (that was on occasion applied to my rear end at Kailua Intermediate School) in retirement behind glass. My offense? Drawing caricatures of my teachers in class.

6) Kailua is famous for its Chinese food. My favorite dish growing up was crisp gau gee mein with vegetables.

7) Anybody want to buy a "cheap" condo in Kailua?

8) Enjoying my second childhood.

9) Below is the vice-principal of Kailua High School. My graduating class in 1970 numbered 1,000. Now the entire student body numbers 800. As she told me, "If you can afford to live in Kailua, you can afford to send your children to private school." In this photo I had just given her a copy of my Confessions of an Unlikely Academic. We talked about me coming back to speak at commencement next May. Now wouldn't that be something.

10) First Baptist Church Windward. I was saved in this congregation and here I served until I went off to Biola in 1971.

11) Hawaii is known for its plate lunches. My favorite is two scoop rice, mac salad, and teriyaki chicken.

12) Yes, I'm enjoying myself!

13) My local Calvary Chapel buddies: pastor Charles (left) and pastor Felix (right). One Hawaiian, one Filipino/Chinese.

14) A Samoan brother.

15) Teaching at the men's barbeque on Sunday afternoon. I tried to show them how to judge the accuracy of their Bible translations.

Monday, July 7

3:53 AM If I had my life to do over again:

I'd have written more poetry and drawn more pictures.

I'd have read the Bible more and books about the Bible less.

I would take the first move in reconciliation.

I would pick more roses and place them in vases.

I would travel lighter than I have.

I'd have tried to make more friends, people dedicated to helping make others' dreams come true.

I would be sillier than I have been.

I wouldn't have skipped so many classes to go surfing.

I would have doubted more greatly so as to be able to believe more deeply.

I would have loved Becky more selflessly.

I would have held fewer grudges.

I would be less rude.

I would have had a higher regard for singleness.

I would have pulled out and read my high school year book.

I would have picked up more hitchhikers.

I would more easily have admitted my absolute worst before God.

I would have picked my friends more carefully.

I would have uttered fewer pious clichés.

I would have said No to the lie of low-self-esteem.

I would have stopped trying to win the wrong contests.

Thankfully, I still have my whole life ahead of me. When I begin to feel hindered by my age or limitations, I can remind myself that these are not concerns to God. He can use my life in gigantic, extraordinary ways if I'm willing to trust Him with the very ordinary things of life. The Bible says that God "will never fail you nor abandon you." He's with us each and every day, from here to eternity. I needn't be afraid or discouraged. I need only to follow Him. And that can mean a very radical way of living.

Well, it's time to rest up, to celebrate, to remember, to serve ... and to ponder the future. The mountains I still face? They're nothing but what Chuck Swindoll calls "great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations." The Lord's return is near. It's time to "make the most of every opportunity" and to be about the Father's business. Soon and very soon we will be asked to give an account for our lives. Each day is therefore valuable. Let's make the most of them!

Mahalo and much aloha,

Dave

Sunday, July 6

4:43 PM Thanks to all who have written such wonderful words of encouragement. Here's only the latest. Thank you again.

Lives with much influence leave voids even larger.  I, too, miss her, in a way that I will always wonder about.  What she instilled in every person she encountered will only blossom and bear fruit from this time forth. What a great life and blessing only doubled by the both of your lives living out the faith.  

May your trip remind you not only of your best times but of the beginning of God blessing two people to do great things through a great God. Treasure every memory and may you return fuller than when you left.

Our prayers and hearts will certainly be with you brother.

3:50 PM I am very much looking forward to having some good friends farm sit for me while I'm gone. They've even agreed to finish a few projects I've started. At the same time, I'm praying that their time here will provide some R & R from the restful rushing of life. Farms are good for that, you know :)

Meanwhile, I just finished packing my checked luggage, mostly myth books that I will make available at the Myth of Adolescence Conference next Saturday. I never put my Greek New Testament in my checked bags; it's much too valuable. It stays on my person at all times. I see the temps will be in the mid-80s on Oahu all next week, with the possibility of a few light showers on the weekend. I plan to take lots of pix of course, including the sunrise at Kailua Beach facing the Mokulua Islands. God loves to create such marvelous vistas, doesn't He?

Oh, did I tell you I'm staying only a block from the beach and a block from the first house I lived in when we moved to Kailua from Honolulu in 1955? There is just no way I can express the beauty of Kailua. But I'll certainly try when I get back.

Can you spell unbelievable?

2:12 PM More odds and ends ...

1) Received this from Oahu today:

I know this, the islands may seem a little bit different this time around when you come but the same love and spirit of aloha that you “both” knew so long ago will still greet you with loving and open arms...Our hearts and our prayers are with you my dear braddah!!! God Bless, Aloha and Love you.

One of the unexpected blessings of Becky's passing was getting reacquainted with my Hawaiian roots. It all started when my good friend from my Biola days Don Stewart began emailing me with words of encouragement. That led to an invitation to speak at Calvary Chapel Tustin in February. But even prior to that, Don kindly arranged for me to speak at Cavalry Chapel West Oahu during my visit to Hawaii in December. And now it's nothing for me to get emails from the Islands from my long lost ohana there. Look back over the way God has brought you from where you were to where you are today. There have been a few delightful surprises along the way, wouldn't you say? You've made new friends and gotten reconnected with past ones. When I look back at my time growing up in Hawaii, so much seaweed clogs the memories. The good old days seem long forgotten. But if we look forward -- alas! Thoughts of the future are filled with hope and new life. I'm going "home," and by George I'm going to frolic!

2) Had a wonderful Lord's Supper today. God knows we're all worms. He knew what we'd get into by sinning. Still, He has made provision for us. We lay many traps for ourselves when we forget just how sinful we are and just how badly we need a Savior. Little wonder that the Lord Jesus never invited anyone to His table. "Do this," He commanded, "in remembrance of Me." God is the one who takes personal responsibility for our salvation. What a glorious thought!

My sins, not in part, but the whole, are nailed to His cross and I bear them no more, praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

And our part? All we have to do is declare our bankruptcy. The simple fact is that today I saw Jesus, I really saw Him! I saw my absent-yet-present Savior whom all creation praises at all times -- the sun and the stars and the moon and the wind and the seraphim and the sparrows -- and I saw Him high and lifted up, my risen, ruling, returning Lord, even though I was not feeling terribly spiritual today, even though words of praise did not spring spontaneously from my lips. Still He was there, and I worshiped Him, That all my powers, with all their might/In Thy sole glory may unite. Praise God for the blessing of the bread and the cup.

3) As Jason was teaching today, I thought to myself, I am so grateful for the Scriptures. In them we have the answers to life. We have the only perfect frame of reference for all of our questions. The Bible is there when we need reproof, it's there when we need correction, it's there when we need comfort. How kind of God to grant us His word, and how necessary that we give it a first hearing and allow it to shape our thinking.

4) Finally, I wept at Becky's grave today, thinking of that time when a martyr died in the early church, when "devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him."

When Moses died the people of Israel wept for him for thirty days. And so today I wept tears of sorrow and tears of joy, grateful for a life lived out in obedience, whatever that obedience entailed. I am sure there are much worse ways to lose a spouse than from death. How much more painful the wounds of rejection and unfaithfulness. My faith is far from being Exhibit A of what faith should look like, but I have tried to maintain a thankful heart toward God throughout this ordeal. Even when there are lapses and failures, our God understands perfectly what we are going through.

Friend, whatever dark tunnel God is asking you to walk through today, He has been there. Faith is not ignoring the heartache. It's a choice to thank God and obey His word even in the absence of feelings. Lay hold on His character, for He will never fail you.

8:32 AM This and that ...

1) Good read here: On "Courage" in the (Christian) Academy. It costs nothing to tow the party line, whether you are a conservative or a non-conservative. But dare go against the status quo and -- well, it's a fallen world out there. But the fact is, you don't have to "win." You don't have to play "king of the hill." Just speak the truth as you see it.

2) Mike Bird enters the discussion about international biblical scholarship. His suggestion that we in the West try harder to involve scholars from the Majority World in our writing projects is well taken. He also suggests that more of our Western books need to be translated into other languages for easier use by foreign nationals. As one who has had several of his books translated into such languages as Spanish, Korean, Portuguese, and Mandarin, I can certainly agree with this suggestion. But I have a fundamental disagreement with this notion, on a deeper level. In my opinion, it is time we took English off the pedestal where we have placed it and begin encouraging foreign scholars to produce original works of theology in their own languages. I think both China and Ethiopia are on the verge of seeing this happen. Men and women trained with doctorates in the West are surely capable of writing volumes on the biblical languages, theology, church history, Christian education, etc. Finally, Mike raises the troublesome issue of the expense of bringing a foreign national to study in the West. He writes:

Asking African students to pay exuberant non-EU fees in British sterling is not going to happen unless there is a big scholarship or a wealthy benefactor. If British universities could charge students from African, Asian, and Latin American countries at a reasonable rate then they’d get more students from those places. Then there is the price of European monographs from the usual suspects which can scarcely be afforded by western universities let alone by universities in developing countries.

This is all well and good. But might I suggest another solution? What if every New Testament scholar in North America sponsored at least one international student to enroll in their institution? That is, we would pay for their airfare, tuition, and room and board for the three years it takes to earn their masters or doctorate. Even better, why not have that student live in our homes with us for those three years where they can be mentored one-on-one? You say, That would involve a lot of sacrifice on my part! And you would be correct. It does take a great deal of sacrifice to sponsor a foreign national. But it can be done.

3) The latest issue of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society contains a must-read essay by my former Talbot colleague Klaus Issler called "Exploring the Pervasive References to Work in Jesus' Parables." When I first read the title I thought Klaus was talking about "works," as in "good works." But no, his essay explores work-related references within the teachings of Jesus. Among his conclusions? The concept of work is included in 32 of 37 parables (86%). That's a lot! Moreover, notes Klaus, Jesus Himself devoted about 20 years of His life working as a builder/contractor. That's six times as long as His public ministry! Klaus concludes that:

...Jesus' example of one personally engaged for almost two decades in the world of work as God's will offers a powerful challenge that our lives at work are important areas in which to live out God's kingdom purposes, regardless of the particular role in which we serve others.

I already knew that Paul had a high work ethic (see my The Thessalonian Road to Self-Support). Now I think I know where he derived it. I'm going to be coming back to this essay again and again. I will use it the next time I teach the life of Christ at SEBTS. I never thought one could glean so much information from studying Jesus' work ethic. Bravo!

4) "Change cannot be managed; it must be led." (Will Willimon.) 

5) Sure hope this doesn't happen on my flight to Hawaii!

Saturday, July 5

6:13 PM Meet Francisco. He's one of the servers at the Mexico Viejo Grill in town.

More than that, he's a brother in the Lord. I shared with him about my trip next week and asked him to pray for me. He said, "It's good that you asked for prayer, hermano. Unless the Holy Spirit comes upon you in a very special way, your teaching will be useless." He is so right! Paul often asked other people to pray for him. Like Daniel (Dan. 2:18), he felt the need for prayer. "Brothers and sisters, pray for us!" (1 Thess. 5:25) was his constant plea.

Pray for me, please, that my messages would come not only in word but also in power, in the Holy Spirit, and in full conviction that what I am saying is the absolute truth. Gracias!

2:30 PM Yesterday it was an officer pushing over a paraplegic in a wheelchair. (Yes, he had been goaded, but was that an excuse for what he did?) Today it's a CHP officer punching a woman lying on the ground. (Was his use of force excessive? You decide. Go to CNN online to watch the videos if you like.) One would think that law enforcement personnel are taught how to deal with uncooperative, non-violent citizens and how to deescalate unstable situations. Maybe they are. Maybe these are exceptions to the rule. All this is a mere reminder that we live in a very fallen world, so it is not surprising that we find these kinds of situations. Each one of us can be pushed beyond the limits of self-control if we are not very careful. I recall how Paul and Silas, even though they were Roman citizens, were beaten by the constables in Philippi. The next morning the praetors sent the lictors to tell the jailor, "Release those men." And Paul's response? Are you kidding me? You beat us publicly without a trial, men who are Romans, and now you are trying to get rid of us secretly? Not on your life! You come and lead us out! What in the world was Paul doing? It's all very simple. Justice had been trampled on; the law had been violated by its would-be defenders. The honor of the missionaries demanded that they be officially vindicated. I am so proud of the police chief of Lafayette, Indiana, when he saw that a citizen's basic human rights had been violated by one of his officers. (Go here to see his official response.) What an honorable man. Thank God for law-abiding law enforcement officials like him. I am sure they are in the vast majority.

10:24 AM It's now been 8 months since we laid Becky to rest. Wasn't it just yesterday? If you've been reading from the beginning, you know how my heart broke when Becky died. In the interim, God has been teaching me a very important lesson: Don't complain about what you don't have; instead, be thankful for what you do have. I have never seen so clearly God's provision at Becky's home-going as I do right now. She died on a Saturday morning. We were able to have the viewing that very night at the local funeral home and the memorial service at the seminary chapel the very next afternoon. These were provisions of the Lord. Even as Becky slipped from this world into the next, God was not silent. He was not idle. He was taking care of a million little details, laboring tirelessly on behalf of those who were left behind. I recall having to decide whether or not to have an open casket at the viewing. Becky's body had been worn by years of cancer and the last few weeks of her life on earth were horrifying. But an open casket it was. Somehow I found relief in seeing her face one last time in a setting different from her sick room. I said my goodbyes, looking into a face free from pain. I could see the real Becky, the Becky I knew for most of our 37 years together: her strong features, her beautiful lips, her noble face. This was a ritual that we needed, that we all needed. C. S. Lewis once commented about the significance of ritual. "It is a pattern imposed," he said, "on the mere flux of our feelings by reason and will, which renders pleasures less fugitive and griefs more endurable...." It was right and proper that those who knew and loved my precious wife should be able to grieve over her body. Crude and primeval emotions sprung up as we gave her back to God in death. We looked on "the earthly house of her tabernacle," the body in which we had all known her, and gave silent thanks, thanks for the life she lived and for the God she served, knowing that because of His goodness and grace hers was a body that was resurrectible.

I am going to Hawaii partly to minister but mostly to remember, to remember the place where two bodies and souls were united on a honeymoon long ago and where palm trees and sunsets swallowed up our cares. I have now spent 8 months without her, full of unbearable pain and joy and life and little deaths and learning and much love. I don't know how I will handle the memories when I arrive back home in Kailua. But that's okay. Nobody said this was going to be easy. So I'm going to do the only thing that makes sense: I'm going to do what everyone does in the Islands and just flow.

The death of a spouse is a pill I didn't want to swallow. But as with everything God plans for our lives, we accept and move on. I think this is called obedience, and it is not easy. But I know it's going to be good. On Monday I will board a plane in Atlanta and 9 hours later I will be back in Paradise. I think it's going to be awesome.

9:16 AM Still the greatest sport around.

 

8:23 AM Once again, I see that I have become the source of unending consternation to my ever-loyal reading public. As soon as I commit an egregious faux pas, my inbox fills. Blackberries, Dave, not blueberries! I should know the difference. Just snapped this pic of the BLUEberry bushes in our backyard.

Anyhoo, two things:

1) I think I'll leave my reference to "blueberries" in yesterday's post as a perpetual memorial to my senility.

2) In the future, just know that whenever I say "blueberries," I really meant to say "blackberries." It's like when our kids were small and we told them to do something, and they would do something completely different. "Don't do what I said, do what I meant!" was our reply.

In jest, of course.

Friday, July 4

5:48 PM Vanilla ice cream smothered with blueberries.

What a great topper to a wonderful day.

5:36 PM Woohoohoohoo! Today's surf report from Kailua shows swells of 4-5 feet, bigger than Diamond Head and Waikiki even.

My gills have sprouted and I'm ready!

5:28 PM As we are enjoying our freedoms, others are suffering. Please join me in remembering those who are in prison for the cause of Christ. The latest news may be found here

4:37 PM Quote of the day (James Douglass, The Non-Violent Cross):

[The Christian] will never expect the governing authorities to embrace the cross, just as Paul did not expect them to, and he will remain subject to them in all that is just. But to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s is to bear in mind always that it was Caesar’s cross on which the Lord of glory died, so that the Christian, too, may finally have to render to Caesar a cross rather than a denarius.

8:38 AM And now, on a totally unrelated note, I've been inundated by emails from people thinking I should give prayerful thought to doing my own translation of the New Testament, as crazy an idea as that sounds (at least to me). To whit:

  • You asked for thoughts... Here's mine: Write it! Wow! The N.T. in your translation (via the Spirit). Oh my! You can do it. You should do it. You have that kind of talent and you should use it. I believe in you because you will allow the Lord to speak through you. Men like me only wish we had 1/50 of your ability. I will pray for the Lord's confirmation!

  • Record me as a vote in favor of such a project. What I have gotten from your translations, such as those you used in Seven Marks, is clear, contemporary language without the quirkiness you seem to get in many translations. I have read at least substantial portions of all three of those you mention. I would note that Peterson's work has been a great blessing, though I think he does manage to blunt the sharp edges of the parables a bit, perhaps making them too clear and safe. Of course, I understand the terribly difficult task he has undertaken, which is why you'll rarely see vigorous criticism of any Bible translators from me.

  • Just read your post about praying for you as you consider doing your own translation.  Now that is a God sized task...just the kind He calls us to undertake!  Know that you are being lifted up to our Father, who is certain to give clear and convincing guidance in this matter.

  • I will pay for wisdom for you regarding writing a NT translation.  Personally, I think you should.  You have a great way to translate and bring out meaning in a clear, concise, effective way.

  • Here’s my two cents.... I’d love to see someone supplant Peterson’s paraphrase, as I cringe when I hear a minister quote from it. 

My heart is strangely warmed and unusually disturbed by these comments. What a great challenge this project would be. Who is adequate for these things? In any event, I've decided to rough out a translation of the book of Philippians while I'm loafing on the beach in Kailua. Just me and my Greek New Testament. What a crazy life I live!

Keep thinking, growing, and loving!

Dave

8:16 AM In his latest blog post, Larry Hurtado reflects on the need for the Western church to support scholars in "developing" countries. Please read this excellent post. As you know, one of my goals in life is to support graduate theological education in the Majority/Emerging World. In the past 10 years I've made 17 trips to Ethiopia for teaching. In the past 4 years I've made 7 trips to Asia for the same purpose. (I'll be back there in September.) This November I will make my fourth trip to Ukraine. I've been to Armenia twice. I could go on and on. The frustrating thing to me is that many of us Western scholars are quick to talk about the needs but slow to meet them. I'll give you but one example, hitch-hiking off this quote by Hurtado:

He will have a heavy teaching load.  The libraries there are basic and hardly adequate for advanced research.  It is most unlikely that his college will be able to finance him to take the sabbatical/research leaves that are absolutely necessary for serious research, especially in Humanities subjects such as biblical studies.

Inadequate libraries? Yep. And the solution? I've got one. You ready? Cull your personal theological library at least once a year and send the books to where they are needed the most. This has been my practice for years. In fact, I have seriously embarrassed myself when people have visited my Wake Forest office. "Why, your library is so small!" Yes it is, and that is intentional. Why should I hoard books when I can use the excellent library on campus?

So I have a challenge. I want to challenge my colleagues in academia to donate at least 25 books from their personal library to a library in the emerging world. Pay the postage yourself. Do it this summer before the semester gets going and you get too busy. The needs are real. But we have the goods. The only question is: do we have the willingness?

7:56 AM I am saddened to see that my good friend and co-editor Allan Bevere has stopped blogging. Thankfully, the hiatus will apparently be a temporary one. Allan wrote on his blog yesterday:

Modern liberals and conservatives continue to control the discussion. Those of us who think otherwise are marginalized because we refuse to accept the power and influence of those who are members of the extremes.

So it is time to close down my blog and leave the discussion to those who somehow think God's kingdom is embodied in conservatives and liberals who believe their views mean more than the gospel.

I feel his frustration. But it springs from hope, as it must. Frustration has led me to wonder whether the church can ever be restored to her original (apolitical) purpose. But there is hope when I read the blogs of men like Allan. Years ago Jacque Ellul warned us that the greatest danger to liberty in Western society proceeds from the military-political state born of a dream of utopian perfection on earth. It seems clear to me that Ellul has touched on something of very great importance. As one who rejected out of hand the para-Marxist realism of my practical theology professors in Basel, I find it just as easy to part company with those on the theological right who argue that evangelicals should inject Christianity into politics. A close reading of the Gospels would show that the opposite is true. Neither Jesus nor His disciples ever engaged in or showed any interest in politics. Our Lord refused to be the political liberator of Israel. I fully agree with the Anabaptists that the state is meant to be secular and that a dualism exists between church and state, between political power and the proclamation of the Gospel. There is in my opinion neither "Christian" liberalism nor "Christian" conservatism. Equally valid (or invalid) perspectives can be found on both sides, but there are no Christian grounds for preferring one side over the other. If Jesus was a capitalist (or a socialist, or a Republican, or a Democrat, or a Libertarian), I fail to see anywhere in the Gospels where He has made that known to us. The fact is that political loyalties are always relative and determined for purely individual and conscience reasons.

Today, Allan added this addendum to his post of yesterday:

I announced yesterday that I was shutting down this blog. I think I just need a break. Sometimes we get so lost into what's important to us, we can lose perspective. I think that has happened with me. So, I just need a little time away from the rough and tumble. I will return to blogging at some point in the next few weeks. I think it is too much in my system to quit for good.

But we all know that even a good thing can become a problem. So, after a little time away I am sure something will get me thinking and I will post my thoughts here at Faith Seeking Understanding.

Allan seeks simply to set forth what Scripture teaches and what history illustrates about the church. I don't know if he is an inerrantist, but he takes the biblical record seriously as God's authoritative revelation. I remain indebted to him, as do so many others. Our understanding of both Scripture and culture, by and large, remains far too shallow. We must therefore be willing to learn from brothers and sisters who care deeply about the church. Allan's is one such voice.

Allan, know that you are loved and your blog is appreciated. Enjoy your moratorium but please don't stay away too long.

7:42 AM "The evangelical subculture, which prizes conformity above all else, doesn’t suffer rebels gladly, and it is especially intolerant of anyone with the temerity to challenge the shibboleths of the Religious Right." Randall Balmer.

7:28 AM And the winner is....

Richard of Elmira, NY

The correct answer was, of course, former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt of Germany.

Thursday, July 3

9:18 PM Opens Christmas Day:

 

9:06 PM "Weariness after the battle is bone-deep and long-lived." Great quote from Robertson's biography of A. P. Hill.

9:02 PM So far I've not received the correct answer to our "name the face" game. So I'll give you a hint:

Chancellor 

8:56 PM The life of a country redneck! Here are the donks. "Daddy, pleeeease can we have a carrot? Pleeeease!" Would I indulge them like that? 

Me?

Then there are the dogs: "Daddy, will you pleeeease take us for a walk? Pleeeease?"

 Well, maybe just this once ....

Oh, I just booked my flights to Odessa, Ukraine. I'll be there from Nov. 21-28, Lord willing. My hosts are the good people at the Odessa Theological Seminary. The teaching time will be highly focused. They are bringing together under one roof all of the Greek and hermeneutics teachers from the various seminaries in Ukraine to take a three-day intensive with me. I am very much looking forward to seeing my old friends and making many new ones. I get to hold 4 sessions daily, Tuesday through Thursday, with these teachers. And imagine this -- I get to teach in English without a translator. Woohoo!

Prayers much appreciated!

12:52 PM Have you ever seen these?

I can't help but think that the Lord is asking me to do the same thing, to provide my own translation of the New Testament, trying to bring out the various nuances as I see them in the Greek text. It chased me down this morning, this reality of doing something like this, or at least giving it a whack. I'll say it again -- I don't know if I'm up to it. It was challenging enough when I did the ISV New Testament base translation 20 years ago. I find myself overwhelmed just at the thought of doing this. But I know that God still has writing plans for me. So I'm praying about it. It would be quite a project -- incredibly satisfying and difficult and rewarding and challenging, all at the same time. Oh, to converse again with the Greek text, just me and it, not as a matter of study or devotion but as a willingness to allow God to speak to and through me. So I sit here at my computer desk, pondering. Pray for me, that I would see this through God's eyes and not just my own. That's it, isn't it? To see all of life through His eyes, to do what He asks us to do and equips us to do.

Your thoughts?

10:08 AM One final "name the face" contest to win a free copy of Seven Marks of a New Testament Church. This may be a tough one. I'll announce the winner tomorrow morning. If there is more than one correct answer, I'll pick the winner from a hat.

10:02 AM Working on the syllabus for my Ph.D. seminar on Philippians this fall. I think my students will like it.

7:05 AM Has your car been recalled yet? Taking the Honda Odyssey in this morning. Yes, things do go wrong.

6:55 AM James Robertson's General A. P. Hill: The Story of a Confederate Warrior is a masterpiece.

New things I've learned from just the first few chapters:

  • As a youth, Hill attended Black Hill Seminary, along with future Baptist great John Broadus.

  • His West Point roommate? None other than future nemesis George McClellan.

  • At the end of his first year at the Point, Hill stood at the top of his class in math, while at the very bottom stood his fellow Virginian, Thomas J. Jackson.

  • While stationed in the South early in his military career, Hill fell in love with the foliage of Florida. "Earth is so kind here. You have only to tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest."

Wish I could write like that!

Wednesday, July 2

8:32 PM "God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him." Jim Elliott.

8:28 PM Am about to scarf down a plate of stir-fried pork over a bed of steaming hot rice, then start reading a new biography of A. P. Hill. #Life is good.

(Does this count as a tweet?)

2:46 PM Oh! I see there's a men's barbeque coming up a week from Sunday.

And lookie where it is too! Cavalry Chapel West Oahu. I love Hawaiian barbeque so I think I'll attend!

2:01 PM Just swam my laps again. Gettin' ready for the huge surf at Kailua Beach -- two to three footers (haha)!

8:25 AM And the winners, chosen randomly, are Alfie and Michael. Their comments are as follows:

Alfie:

1) It is hard to choose which book of yours is my favorite.  I have decided to take a practical approach.  Linguistics for Students for New Testament Greek has been very useful to me as a teacher. 
 

2) I think you should take three or four of your NT sermons that you think are most important for the church.  Start with the text and take us through every step of your exegesis narrating why you made the decisions you did.  Then in the end include the sermon text.  That way we, the students, can see the entire process of the master - that's you. 

Michael:

1) My favorite book of yours is Christian Archy. I was a history major in college and have always loved politics, especially presidential history. This book challenged me to rethink what the church's role is in political process. Our primary aim is not legislating morality but proclaiming the gospel! 

2) I would love to see you write on the issue of pastoral ministry from a practical point of view. Specifically, how do pastors/elders wed a passion for biblical theology and the Great Commission with life in what is often a very ordinary ministry setting. My observation is that much of evangelical Christianity lives in the megachurch world where pastors are more or less celebrities. I feel as if we are inundated by this perspective of local church ministry when the reality is that most pastors spend their lives and ministries in small churches. This is something that I have been wrestling with personally and I believe many other pastors struggle with this same issue.

Your books are going out in today's mail. Thanks to everyone who played along. I enjoyed reading your comments! 

Tuesday, July 1

9:49 PM This just came in:

Dave,

Sorry to tell you this, but the photo you posted on your blog is not of blueberries. That's a photo a blackberries. Our farm is covered with them, so I'm something of an authority on this.

Mistake noted, correction made. 

8:36 PM Tonight, while trying to decide which Civil War reenactment to participate in this year, I've been going through our old pictures of past events. Here's a blast from the past. Now that thar's one purdy couple, wouldn't you say? 

Nathan called the dance that night and boy did he call a good one. My daughters: no one could dance the waltz like your mother.

Man do I miss her.

7:20 PM Odds and ends:

1) A good friend who lives in Oxford (NC, not England) wrote to tell me about a lecture to be given next Monday at the Oxford public library. The speak is Billy Yeargin and his topic is "Robert E. Lee: The Autumn of His Life." It begins at 12:00 noon. I'll have to miss it (flying to Hawaii) but it sure sounds like a good lecture to me.

2) On "The People's Pharmacy" (NPR) last week, a North Carolina Nutritionist bemoaned the state's "low fat food" and "high fat people." He concluded by suggesting two ways we can all cut down on our calorie intake, and I thought they were fantastic. He said, whenever you go out to eat, either (1) buy only one meal and share it with your spouse, or (2) eat only half your meal and save the rest for dinner that night or lunch the next day. I've been converted! Tonight I enjoyed a half of a chili relleno and a half serving of refried beans, leftovers from today's lunch. Delicious -- and I got two meals for the price of one. Try it. You might like it -- and lose some weight too.

3) Our free-book contest today asks two questions, the first being "Which of my books have you enjoyed the most, and why?" The answers I've gotten thus far have been most enlightening, but this one has got to take the cake:

I regret to say that I have never read one of your books.

I love an honest man! 

12:50 PM Woke up this morning thinking, Good day to get caught up on some projects around the house. There wasn't much question of what needed to be done:

1) The porch, which has been used all year for bombing practice by the local bird population, desperately needed deep cleaning. So did the porch chairs and cushions. Check.

2) The Round Up I purchased a week ago still had not been sprayed where it was most sorely needed. Any guesses as to where that was? Check.

3) Finally got on the phone and sold my Grand Marquis. It'll be gone tomorrow. Check.

4) Blackberries are coming out of our ears, but thanks to one of my daughters that situation is quickly being rectified. Check.

We are both tiring. It is hot out there. I'm coming to realize that there's only so much a person can do outdoors on a day like this. Which means: Mexican food, here we come.

9:25 AM I've got two more new books to give away. I'll pick the winners from a hat tomorrow morning. To win a free book all you have to do is write and tell me two things:

1) Which of my books have you enjoyed the most, and why?

2) Is there a topic you think I should write on, and why? I figure I've got about 15 good years of writing left in me and am open to going in different directions if I sense that's the Lord's will. So ... help me think this through!

(P.S. I've got a book project that has been percolating in my subconscious mind for many years. I may let it surface and share it with you in the next few days. It would truly be my magnum opus, but I am scared to death to even contemplate doing it.)

Write me today at dblack@sebts.edu. Contest ends at 9:00 am tomorrow morning.

9:06 AM Good news! My new book is now available on Kindle for only 2.99.

8:44 AM Fellow Southern Baptist Ed Stetzer has written a thoughtful essay called What Is Calvary Chapel & Why Should You Care? I'm looking forward to spending time with my CC bruddahs and sistahs in a week and a half during my trip to Oahu. CC West Oahu is ministering in one of the toughest areas on the island. They've even begun a church plant in Makaha on the west coast. I get to teach 6 times while I'm there. There is just no way I can thank CC West Oahu enough for their kind invitation to speak there not only on this visit but when I was in Hawaii last December to commemorate my wedding university (my first without Becky). I was struck by the simple way of life in the Islands. Everything happens on "Hawaiian time." The CC pastors are, for the most part, all local boys who were born and raised in Hawaii. This is not as common as you might think: many pastors in Hawaii are mainland haoles who sometimes find adjusting to life in Hawaii difficult. Not so with these kanakas. I'm also looking forward to returning to Southern California this September to speak 4 times at 412 Church, a CC church in San Jacinto. My good friend and Biola alum Don Stewart arranged this visit, as did he my trip to California last February to speak at CC Tustin. He also interviewed me twice on KWVE radio, which is a ministry of Cavalry Chapel. I want to spend a lot more time with these good folk. I've rarely met pastors who are hungrier for good Bible training, and I am eager to do what little I can to provide it. It's odd, but when I lived in La Mirada, California for 27 years I never once attended a Calvary Chapel, not even the mother church in Costa Mesa. I've always been attending Baptist churches. I'm not as big a fan of end-times prophecy as some of my CC friends are, and I personally don't espouse the Moses Model of ministry. They know that and invite me to speak anyway. What we have in common, at least with the older CC people, is our participation in the Jesus Movement of the 1960s and 1970s and (for many of us old-timers) our love for surfing. Most of all, I think, we have a common love for Jesus and for the Gospel.

As I prepare to return to Hawaii, there is no way I can express my sense of connectedness with this place. It somehow feels like "home." Growing up there I was deeply touched by the pastors who mentored this fatherless young surfer. I would probably never have left Oahu for school had there been a Bible college there in 1971. I suspect that I'll be making at least one visit there annually to teach. I'm especially drawn to the work of ministry in West Oahu where I am seeing churches like CCWO doing irrational works of service in their communities and loving, wrestling, and laughing with atheists who haven't joined their fellowship (yet!). I confidently predict that the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ will continue to be proclaimed and lived out in that place.

On a completely unrelated note, one of my daughters is coming over today to pick blackberries. I'm so glad. I would really hate to see them go to waste. I'm so grateful for family. As an empty-nester, I'm finding great joy in just being a parent and grandparent. I consider it my joy and duty to keep reminding my kids that God is their Father, that He has a good purpose for each of them, and that nothing in our lives -- absolutely nothing -- is useless or "accidental" in the fulfillment of that purpose if we will only trust Him and submit to the lessons He's trying to teach us. Diminishment is sometimes the only way to be enlarged in the Lord, to be conformed to the image of Christ. Nothing in the deep dark caverns of our lives is a mystery to Him. We can trust Him with everything, even the imponderables and the unfathomables.

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