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Saturday, April 19

7:22 AM Just a quick note to let you know I'm alive and well and very glad to be back on the farm, where these two little newborns were waiting to greet me.

As a standby passenger it's always iffy as to whether I will get home as planned. Yesterday I somehow managed to get the very last seat in the very last row in economy class, right next to everyone's favorite meeting spot, the potty. When I arrived home yesterday my neck and back were in considerable pain and I was glad to lie still and flat and wait for my pain medication to work. I was a mere 19 years of age when I made my first plane ride by myself from Honolulu to Los Angeles. Today I have only to close my eyes and see me as I was before, a strong youngster with blue eyes and thick brown hair, always full of energy and enthusiasm, irrepressibly cheerful and continually active. The Dave Black I saw in the mirror this morning has not changed in spirit, but he will never again be able to travel comfortably on long haul international flights. To my astonishment, I cried almost all the way home from the airport. I tried to make my grand entry as dignified as possible, but I felt defeated and depressed, the result of too much ministering and too little rest. My governing rule nowadays, in case you didn't know, is to live for today and close my mind to the worries of yesterday and tomorrow, but I am clearly still in process when it comes to applying this rule. I am almost too old for the rigors and exertions of the travel game -- almost! Age has become a heavy burden that sometimes make me morose and solitary. To make matters worse, this was my first trip abroad for ministry where I was not welcomed home by Becky afterwards. I well recall how carefully I would enter the house at night, tip-toeing through the bedroom where I knew Becky was already asleep. I would shower and brush my teeth, and then slowly crawl under the covers. Inevitably a hand would reach out, find mine, and give it a little squeeze. "Honey," she would say, "welcome home." We would give each other a kiss and then just lie there, holding hands as a silent Hallelujah Chorus to the One who allowed me to return safely from yet another trip. I could not have asked for more in a wife. Even in my darkest hours she was there to comfort and console. Who wouldn't have missed a wife like that?

Speaking of Becky, did you know that the second of May is fast approaching? I never thought I'd feel so sensitive about what most people think is just another day on the calendar. But it turns out it is the day that marks 6 months since Becky's death, a day that completely changed me, a day I'm still learning how to cope with. Which is why I suppose there's a big lump in my throat this morning, knowing that on May 2 I'll take another small step toward closure. Another arrow will point away from the uncertainty and exhaustion and sheer overwhelmingness of Becky's homegoing and at the same time point forward toward new adventures and new experiences and untrodden paths. Honestly, that I've made it this far I credit to one Person and one Person only, a man who truly knows me and understands me, the one who has walked with me through this desert and had provided just enough manna for each day -- no less and no more. Last night as I sat on my bed weeping, I offered Him yet another piece of my broken heart, bleeding and hurting more than I thought was possible. Odd, but as the anniversary of Becky's death draws closer, I feel a pain as raw and visceral and intense as when she slipped from my arms into the arms of her Beloved. I'm shaking as I type this. What in the world shall I do on the second of May? And He keeps saying to me, "Dave, commemorate! Celebrate! Do it every chance you get! Use every excuse you have to face your loss head-on, to say goodbye for the millionth time. Remember, Dave, I am a God who wants His children to remember their past, who does not want them to forget the good times and the bad times, the successes, the mistakes, even the wonderful, crazy, exhilarating thing we call marriage."

A formal goodbye, like a funeral service, causes us to ask questions that need to be asked. How will this death impact my life? Whom can I trust? What are my true values in life? It is another opportunity to say our mahalos and alohas, to accept the stark reality of her death, to take another tiny step in adjusting to life without her presence. It's a chance to say formally, celebratorily, "Thank you, Becky. Thank you for the wonderful years we shared together. Thank you for standing by me on bright and cloudy days. Thank you for the memories we shared. Thank you for enriching me as a person and as a Christian. I love you, Becky. I miss you. You are never forgotten. I'm letting you go, but you will never leave me." Should others be able to commemorate this special day with me, they too will have a chance to convey what Becky meant to them, to give voice to their own memories.

Of course, being the amazing klutz that I am, I have no idea how to go about planning anything like this. I have no idea how to be the strong father figure to my children when my own heart is scattered into tiny little pieces around my feet. And so here I am this morning, exhausted and sore, feeling like I've just run 11 consecutive marathons, emotionally bruised and battered, praying with all my heart that I still have the courage to face life square on. But the good news is that I don't have to have it all figured out. I am enough because He is enough. For many of us, Becky's death created a hole with sharp, jagged edges. The good news is that Father Time has already done his work. The edges are a bit duller, the absence a bit more familiar, the quicksand a little less miry, the numbness a tiny bit diminished. I'm so grateful for all of you. We're connected not only through the words on this page. We're reconnected on a much deeper level. We're tuned into the same frequency and my, what a difference that makes. No one but Jesus could understand what I'm feeling. But some of you come a pretty close second. I'm glad I know you. After all, none of us is meant to go through anything like this alone.

Grace and peace,

Dave

Wednesday, April 9

2:20 AM I'm packed and ready. By the grace of God and through your prayers, several men will begin their studies of Greek. I can't wait to get started. Pray for me that I will see every circumstance through God's eyes. This is much bigger than me, so huge and momentous and downright crazy. But it's the work to which He has called me.

If I live to be a hundred years old, I'll never understand the grace of God.

Adios, amigos. Mahalo and aloha. Dave

Tuesday, April 8

5:06 PM Parting is such sweet sorrow. It's always a bittersweet time when I leave the farm. I know; I'm not supposed to be sentimental. But leaving Bradford Hall is like leaving Becky behind. Folks, you'll never know how much I miss my life partner. When Becky died, I had no idea how my heart, soul, spirit, mind, and body would crave her personal touch. My mind starves for her simulating conversation. My soul starves for her companionship. My body craves her touch. I miss her laugh, the sound of her voice on the phone with one of our daughters, her singing in the kitchen, the patter of her footsteps on the porch stairs, the little pats that said "I love you," the kisses and hugs and prayers. Not one hour ago I saw a picture of her and began sobbing. Usually I have it all together, but not then. I felt as out of control as a rodeo rider who has just been bucked off his horse. I don't have words to describe how much I miss her human touch, her physical closeness, her wit and wisdom. My kids and grandkids have been a great source of encouragement and comfort to me, but they can never replace her. My mind is like a video stuck on continuous replay. I ask myself, "How long will it last?" Grieving is just plain hard work, folks. It's unfamiliar territory. I want to be more than a widower who remembers. I want to laugh with her and kiss her cheek and take her out for Chinese food.

The only one who can truly sustain me is Jesus. It's not a sick joke when the Bible says that He does more for us than we could ever ask or imagine. I cling to Him. It is He who will enable me to gradually transition from a grieving widower to someone who embraces the possibility of looking forward to being in a relationship again. One thing, though, is certain. He understands. He knows my pain. He is acquainted with grief. He is sad when I am sad and happy when I am happy and lonely when I am lonely and excited when I am excited. There is never a moment when He does not share my grief. "When anxiety was great within me, Your consolation brought great joy to my soul" (Psalm 94:19). Yes, her death will always be a mystery to me. But the Bible has the answer. "Be still and know that I am God." It doesn't say, "Be still and know why."

Please accept my heartfelt apologies for ranting on like this. In case you haven't noticed, blogging is a coping mechanism for me. It doesn't make the pain go away. It just makes it a bit more tolerable.

So I will be fine.

At least until the next crying spell.

3:05 PM As I leave tomorrow for the foreign field, I am grateful for all those who are praying for my trip. All over the world there are quiet men and women and boys and girls working behind the scenes to make missions happen. They are promised their reward.

2:24 PM Information can never be substituted for action.

2:20 PM Packing. I hate packing. That's why I travel light, as Jesus commanded us to.

Monday, April 7

1:12 PM Do you see a lost world as Jesus sees it? How can we be His body if we're not thinking as He thinks and loving as He loves?

10:40 AM I am scheduled to make my fourth teaching trip to Ukraine this November. Today I received this prayer request from the Odessa seminary president:

Please pray for peace in Ukraine. Pray that our political leaders will have the wisdom to save the country from war. If war starts, Odessa would be in the midst of the conflict.

Let's remember, folks: there is one church. These are our brothers and sisters. Each of us is assigned a different place in the harvest field, but we are all God's co-workers. Right now our job is to interceded on behalf of the nation of Ukraine. I'm calling on believers everywhere to join me in this duty and joy.

Below: My hermeneutics class at the Odessa seminary in April 2013. I love these guys so much it hurts.

10:33 AM Elizabeth Achtemeier:

Barth’s dedication to the sole authority and power of the Word of God was illustrated for us… while we were in Basel. Barth was engaged in a dispute over the stained glass windows in the Basel Münster. The windows had been removed during World War II for fear they would be destroyed by bombs, and Barth was resisting the attempt to restore them to the church. His contention was that the church did not need portrayals of the gospel story given by stained glass windows. The gospel came to the church only through the Word proclaimed. …the incident was typical of Barth’s sole dedication to the Word.

What? A church without stained glass windows? What? A Christmas program without a living Christmas tree or a manger scene or Christmas greens? How very Barthian!

P.S. Who in the world is this good-looking couple in Basel?

9:42 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Reformation, Revival, or Restoration? I'll be sharing these thoughts with church leaders this weekend in Asia. My thoughts aren't inspired, of course, and can't come close to the authority of the Bible. What I am simply trying to do is to ask the Scriptures themselves what a New Testament church ought to look like. Unfortunately, it seems that in many corners of the modern church there exists an aversion to asking such basic questions. The traditions of Paul have been replaced by our own traditions. So I suggest we get back to the Bible and try our best to retrieve our ecclesiology from the first Christians, to the extant that this is possible today. I see no reason why we shouldn't call into question our current practices especially since we all believe we have in the Bible a source authority.

Still more to come. Stay tuned.

9:16 AM Quote of the day (James Hamilton):

“I don’t think John wrote this passage,” he explained to the congregation. “I’m certain he didn’t put it here, and therefore I’m not going to preach it.”

And you? Will you treach John 7:53-8:11? You say, "Dave, I have no idea what you're talking about." Good! This means you will love our forthcoming conference on this passage. The dates are April 25-26. The place? Southeastern's beautiful campus. The conference details may be found here.

It's certainly something to think about.

8:52 AM Ladies and gentlemen, believe it or not, my first blog post of the day has nothing to do with Becky. I am intrigued -- but not too surprised -- to see the MIT Technology Review suggest that an increase in internet use leads to a decline in religious affiliation.

Now, I am reading this to mean that religious affiliation is on the wane (i.e., church attendance) though not necessarily interest in spiritual things, which is not at all a bad thing if people are simply going through the motions of religion. We now have at our fingertips an information explosion that has begun to wean people from over-dependence on authority figures. The internet also exposes its users to multiple worldviews and religions. Taboo topics can now be safely discussed "at a distance" and in relative privacy. If your pastor says "such and such" is true, you can check out the veracity of what he is saying in an instant. And because of the power of search tools, we can go directly to what we are looking for. I am thrilled that some are even using the internet for evangelism and discipleship (some call this "diskypleship"). The internet can be an incredibly useful for teaching. Many of us blog about spiritual topics. Websites like Bible Gateway and Biblos offer users thousands of online helps for serious Bible study.

The fact is that we live in a technology-saturated world. Let's be sure to leverage this technology for good and for the Gospel. In his essay The Use of Technology and the Equipping of Leaders, my colleague Alvin Reid writes: "I like many others have decided to use this technology for the gospel and for training leaders." For Alvin, this means:

  • Technology allows us to expand our capacity without exhausting our energy…translation, I can speak to youth pastors in 20 states without leaving my office 

  • Technology allows us to expand our tribe without extinguishing our budget…translation, I can grow my influence through such social media outlets such as twitter and instagram

  • Technology allow us to respond to current events, which in turn helps resource the gatekeepers of student ministry to respond to current events, at an exponentially quicker rate…example, Miley Cyrus can twerk with a dwarf or a typhoon can level villages in the Phillipines and we can respond immediately through blog, webinar, etc. 

  • Technology allows us to grow our tribe and affords us the opportunity to be introduced to other’s tribes…translation, the beauty of being retweeted, liked, favorited, and the list goes on

  • Technology allows us the opportunity to continue and grow lasting relationships after the event is over…example, a student or pastor can ask a question, share a memory, or simply give a shout out through a multiplicity of outlets where we at SLU can respond immediately; also hashtags afford us the ability to follow threads and encourage (it means a lot to a student if you they hashtag a pic from their #slulead or #slulead101 experience and we like it) 

I'm increasingly convinced that the only way to tackle the internet revolution head on is to use its power for the work of the Lord. Multitudes of people around the world have become disenchanted with their "religion," whatever it may be. On top of this, the use of social media is at an all-time high. Life is very short. It's also very full of good things, things so full of wonder and potential for great good. Blessings on all of you as you look hard at these gifts and seek to leverage them for the Lord Jesus.

Dave

Sunday, April 6

7:38 PM "Come apart or you'll fall apart." Learning this slowly.

7:24 PM This came today from a pastor:

Your writing on cessation is very good and encouraging... I've shared with our men and it has helped.

A good resource is Craig Keener's review of Strange Fire. Agree with Craig or not, you will appreciate his conciliatory tone.

7:12 PM There is no place in the church for those who aren't willing to accept inconvenience and uncertainty for the Lord's sake.

6:53 PM Those who stay behind and pray are serving Christ just as effectively as any frontline warrior.

3:30 PM Seated here are the three volunteer missionaries our church body commissioned for their trips beginning this Thursday to Asia.

I am so grateful to God for the loving care and concern I receive from my home church every time I travel. To my right are Dr. Rick Godwin and his son who, along with their mother, will be doing medical work in the Philippines for 2 weeks. Rick once did the same thing with us in Ethiopia. And so we leave, buoyed up by the prayers of God's people, carried along by the Lord and relying on Him alone for mercy and grace in our time of need.

Then it was lunch with the Bradshers.

The kids have stolen my heart. Have you noticed?

9:21 AM Looking forward to lunch today with Joel, Kim, and the Fabulous Five!

8:40 AM I just filled another 4 orders for our Greek DVD series. If you are interested in learning Greek on your own, here's a YouTube you might find helpful. My thanks to Robert for putting it together.

 

8:22 AM So I'm sitting here trying to type up my book Seven Marks of a New Testament Church and I keep getting interrupted. It's her again. The pleasant memory of her life. She was one of the humblest people I've ever known. And one of the most committed missionaries I've ever seen. Becky and missions. They went hand in hand. It was not always this way. Ditto for me. But the Author of life had other plans for us. He took two weak and weary Christians and called them into something much bigger than they could ever have been without Him. I just thank God that each of us, regardless of who we are or where we've come from or what we've done, stands equal before God. If you find yourself wandering today, splintered by the concerns of this world, you need to start -- I mean really start -- taking Christ seriously. You need to get that Solid Rock underneath you, quick. It wasn't that Becky and I didn't love Jesus before. But we loved the church more. We loved home schooling more. We loved gardening and reenacting and horses and writing and our businesses more. Then God lit a fire beneath us. Even today, if I sniff ever so gently, I can still smell the smoke.

Friend, take a deep breath. Something's burning in your life right now. It's Christ's call to love. Servanthood is the normal Christian life. It's not reserved for super-saints or clergy. It's for Greek profs and housewives and troubled teenagers and the imprisoned. Let the flame burn, friend. Let it spread from house to house and through your church until the whole world is engulfed by the wildfire. In 2005, I took this picture of Becky.

Her life had already been consumed by this flame. She lived and loved and sacrificed and suffered and gave up everything for the sake of the Grand Fire-Maker. And you know what? He accepted her just as she was, without qualification. He used her to hug on the poor and forsaken. Oh, it cost her. It cost her plenty. The price tag read "Calvary." And He can use you just as He used Becky, big ears, freckles, cancer and all.

Do you believe this?

Well, do you? 

6:02 AM Up early this morning in a strangely contemplative mood. I am (and have always been) a goal setter. Wherever I am, I push quickly against anything that might slow me down or keep me from pursuing my goals. Yet God has impressed on my heart recently the need to slow down, to fully abandon my goals for His. In His will alone, wrote Dante, is our peace. In His will alone. What does that mean for Dave Black? It means sacrifice. "If a man will let himself be lost for My sake, that man is safe" (Luke 9:24). It means to give myself to God for His world. It means to bear His name to the nations rather than remaining comfortably at home. It means to relinquish something of importance for the sake of the Gospel. It means to measure life by loss and not by gain. On Thursday I leave to serve a church that is far away from here. I love these people. In the midst of all the pain of Becky's loss, God is still so good to me to allow me to serve others. I'm often overwhelmed by the idea that He would use me. This is the life I'm learning to live all over again since Becky died. Life is not intended to be a gloomy and morbid sort of thing but a glad offering of love. Affliction is an opportunity for service. It's like thinning out our pine tree stands so that the trees that remain might have more of the sun and more potential for growth. How I have grown since God allowed Becky's death! I am learning to trust and love Him better. I am learning that His love for me is unconditional, despite all of my failures. I am learning to say "Yes" to the new life and the goals He has in store for me. I am not my own. My old life is gone. My old, hard shell of self-protection and self-sufficiency has given away to utter weakness and dependence on Him. I am learning that the greatest joy always comes forth from the greatest sorrow. This morning at church, broken vessels will be re-commissioned for service abroad. Passports are in hand. Visas are stamped. Bags are packed. There is a golden harvest ahead.

"All I care for is to know Christ, to experience the power of His resurrection and to share in His sufferings, in growing conformity to His death" (Phil. 3:10). That's my goal. I must have Thee, O Jesus of the Scars. I must have Thee.

Saturday, April 5

9:02 AM Finally, George Bush and I have something in common: art!

8:28 AM H. H. Drake Williams III reviews my Paul, Apostle of Weakness.

7:46 AM Social media is wonderful. Yesterday I learned on Face Book that one of my granddaughters took a huge step forward:

My baby just went poopy in the potty for the first time. I knew you all would want to know.

Yes, I did want to know -- and heartiest congratulations to mother and daughter! Then this came across the internet yesterday:

Pam and I are going to be grandparents!

The admission comes, of course, from my good friend Kevin Brown. You can read all about it here. Way to go Kev, but you've got a long way to go to catch up to me!

But the web is not all fun and games. Yesterday I spoke about an inter-family squabble over the question of the sign gifts. Did these gifts cease in the first century or not? I remain deeply troubled by what I've been reading and hearing. Clearly, this question does make a difference in the life of the church, yours and mine. I'd like to make a further observation here. A mark of constructive theological dialogue is the ability to agree about what our differences really are and how to express those differences. I don't think the differences we sometimes talk about (not wearing ties to church or the absence of hymn singing) are our deepest concerns. I do not think the absence of a church choir or whether your pastor wears a coat are major concerns that most Christians think deeply about. I think what people care about -- what they instinctively long for -- is to sense the Spirit's presence in their midst as He forms and shapes and unifies and, yes, corrects His church. They long to be unified around the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. They desire the Holy Spirit to guide them into truth, not just books about the Bible (including Vines). They want to be an army arrayed for battle, ready to bear witness. But unless we have the power of the Holy Spirit, we shall achieve nothing at all. This is precisely Luke's emphasis when he writes in Acts 1:8: "It is only when the Holy Spirit comes upon you that you will receive power to be My witnesses." We do the witnessing, but it is God who gives us the power and who produces conviction in the hearers. I fully sympathize who those who think that the Charismatic Movement has led to extremes. In some cases it has. But I'm not sure that this is the main danger we face as a church today. In fact, I have never been in a Calvary Chapel congregation and witnessed tongue-speaking. Instead, I am usually treated to a careful, God-honoring, verse-by-verse exposition of a biblical book. The pastors I've met are by-and-large self-taught, as were the earliest followers of Jesus. Few are seminary grads, but I can assure you that they are not anti-intellectual. I fear that sometimes seminaries produce ministers who are afraid of the Holy Spirit. They are afraid that if the Spirit were set free in their congregations, chaos would ensue. That danger is real, of course, but it is not the main problem. I long to see a church in which the Spirit once again becomes an invading force, inundating our parched lives, burning away the dross and sin (including the prideful claim that we are not charismatics!), where the Spirit is trusted and not confined to pulpit exegesis. The Lord who is Spirit must laugh at our intramural debates. He will not be confined by our paltry thinking. He is in the business of transforming us as individuals into the likeness of Jesus Christ and of preserving the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Power for selfless living. Power to love the lost. Power for witnessing. Is that not needed today more than ever? How can we claim to be "together for the Gospel" without the perfect love which the Spirit gives to all His people, regardless of their views on cessationism?

So let the discussion continue. Maybe representatives from both sides should hold a cordial conversation at a neutral site such as Biola. (No one is allowed to promote their books!) And when that is over, let them serve together in a soup kitchen in South Central, sharing the love of Jesus with everyone who walks through the doors. I think we need to move beyond words. I think we have to work hard to find some common ground upon which we can show the world that we are one despite our diversity.

On my trip to Asia next week I am going to re-read a wonderful little book called Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? The editor is Wayne Grudem, and the four contributors are Dick Gaffin, Bob Saucy, Sam Storms, and Douglass Oss. At the end of the book, Grudem gets to the core of the matter when he writes:

I think that we [five men] would have to work hard at letting the congregation know that, though we differed on certain doctrinal matters, we greatly appreciated each other's gifts and ministries.

He then concludes with these powerful words:

... knowing these other four men as I do, I really do think it would work. I think we could live and minister and pray together. I think we would offer pastoral care to one another and to each other's families. I think that we would frequently know times of incredible depth of intercession together for the work of the church. In fact, if this were to happen, I think that it might even be the most exciting and enjoyable time of ministry that any of us had ever known. And I think that the Lord himself would take delight in it and would enjoy fellowshipping with us and blessing us, and would tell us.

All all the people said?

When we as a church are willing to come to that humbling place of recognizing in practical detail the lordship of Christ over our lives, then I truly believe that He will pour out His Spirit upon us again afresh and anew. But we have to seek it. We have to to ask for it. We have to come together and work and serve together in unity. Once we put ourselves unreservedly at His disposal, and ask Him to unify us despite of differences, He will do so. If, perchance, the Spirit would grant that kind of unity to the churches in Southern California, and to our churches nationwide, let us thank Him for it. And keep on thanking Him ... and loving one another ... and serving together in the cause of the Gospel ... and witnessing for Him in the power of His Spirit. Maybe, just maybe, we will turn the world upside down.

Friday, April 4

2:15 PM Kim and the kids came over today. What fun.

Between trapezes. That's how I feel these days. Sure helps to make the leap knowing you've got such a great support team.

11:22 AM How to win Muslims for Christ?

  • You can most effectively share Christ with Muslims when you are genuinely friends with them.

  • You must learn to listen to Muslims.

  • You must look to the Holy Spirit to do in the heart of your Muslim friends what you cannot do.

11:14 AM My, my. The persecution has already begun (starting with this dastardly email from a "friend"):

About noon the following day as Dave, Nigusse, and  Jacob were on their journey and approaching the farm, and, when they arrived, Dave went up on the roof to pray. Thoughts of blogging had run through his mind the whole journey and he wanted to post something. While the meal was being prepared, Dave fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large webpage being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of features—searchability, linkability, even videos, etc. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Dave. Redesign, write, and post.”

“No way, Lord!” Dave replied. “I have never blogged anything without Front Page.”

The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

This happened three times, and immediately the webpage was taken back to heaven.

10:23 AM When God takes us into His family He gives us a work to do from which we can never retire.

10:12 AM The Vienna Philharmonic does it again. Watch this spectacular performance of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition and be totally blown away. (Speakers all the way up!)

 

9:42 AM Good stuff here: Tips for Success in a Foreign Land.

9:38 AM Newsflash! I'm thinking about redesigning Dave Black Online and actually going "modern." (Yep. Front Page is a dinosaur, I know.) If you're a web designer and have any suggestions for a new platform, let me know (and send me a link to your web site). I am also open to a completely new look to the site. Readers, please send me links to current websites that you really like (including your own) and that I might use as exemplars of a clean, attractive, simple, and uncluttered home page. Finally, if you have used a web professional to design your site, I am open to referrals. Thanks!

Dave, the one-and-only-ultimate-unblogger.

8:05 AM Since publishing The Jesus Paradigm and Christian Archy, I have gotten all kinds of invitations to talk about what I believe are the essentials of a New Testament church. Often I am asked for my opinion on a particular hot-potato issue of ecclesiology today, and that is the gift of tongues. "Would you tell us your views on the Continuationist-Cessasionist debate?" I have declined all offers. The reason is simple. When controversial issues arise in the church, it is all too easy to allow the debate to dissolve into an either-or discussion when often it should be both-and. Tongues is just one among many issues on which equally devout and equally biblical Christians of all denominational stripes disagree and likely will continue to disagree about until Jesus returns. The solution is to continue to discuss the matter with one another without denigrating those on the other side or pressing our views dogmatically. Not to put too fine an edge on it, the early church succeeded where we don't largely because they got this right. These people were enthusiasts for Jesus Christ, not for their pet doctrines. The mark of their gatherings was transparent love, for without love of the brethren there can be no effective evangelism. If non-believers do not see in our Christian circles a more accepting and caring fellowship than they can find in the world, they are not going to be too impressed with all of our "God talk." Today, we tend to polarize instead. We push people to one side or the other. This is why I was delighted to see the calm and clear way in which Calvary Chapel recently responded to its critics vis-à-vis the Charismatic Movement. This desire to reach out and dialogue is very powerful. Of course, there is no excuse for sloppy thinking on this matter of the sign gifts. I have my own personal convictions about the subject, which I am happy to share with my students -- but only after I have lectured for 4 hours on "The History and Theology of the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement" and only after we have exegeted together, from the Greek text, the book of Acts and all of 1 Cor. 12-14. We would be wise to study these texts for ourselves, or we may well prove to be the blind leading the blind. Christian leaders of our younger churches especially need to discern not just between what is essential to the Christian faith and what is not, but also between what is honorable to Christ and what is dishonoring. Uncritical emotionalism is as stupid as uncritical conservatism, and just as dangerous. Contemporary Christians are often called upon to walk a tight rope, neither forsaking the study of theology nor embracing a modern form of Gnosticism. Perhaps the greatest danger we face is that of confusing tradition for Scripture. That simply will not do, regardless of your convictions about the sign gifts. A Christianity that has lost its unity over essentials has lost its salt and is useless for the world. And this is why I have declined, and will continue to decline, to debate the question of cessationism in public.

In other news, I've been prepping the fields for this summer's hay harvest, both by fertilizing the pastures ...

... and by removing debris from the fields caused by the recent ice storm.

What better way to enjoy the springtime weather than by working outdoors? I was also blessed to meet Brian and Sonia Davis who are planting a church in Philly's tough inner city this summer, and Karen has decided to join them. We had dinner together here at farm and then chatted around the fire.

What an amazing thing that God should make His appeal to others through us. What an astounding thing that He should entrust the ministry of reconciliation to our earthly vessels. Once you have been gripped by the lostness of those who do not know your Lord Jesus Christ, you will need no other motivation to become involved in global evangelization with everything at your disposal. The early Christians found that there was no joy like it. Have you? Oh, here's their website: Risen Christ Fellowship. Check it out!

In the meantime, be peacemakers.

Dave

Thursday, April 3

7:15 AM Odds and ends:

1) William Mounce offers some excellent advice on Bible translation here. An excerpt:

Even though I understand and support dynamic translation, I still think that the macro structure of a verse established by dependent and independent constructions is an important indicator of meaning and should be observed, if possible.

To see how we might apply this philosophy to one passage in the New Testament (Heb. 12:1-2), see my Too Much Lettuce?

2) I recently had a brief conversation with a colleague who teaches New Testament at a sister seminary. Students are constantly asking him why he is always going on mission trips. "I read the New Testament," is his reply. Love it!

3) Danny Akin reflects on his ten years at Southeastern.

4) How to leverage the movie Noah for the Gospel.

5) I have been in many parts of the world and have trained students in New Testament Greek in many different countries. Two things are abundantly plain. The kind of criticism leveled by some today against the traditional method of teaching Greek is irrelevant. Most students are seeking a basic modicum of grammar and vocabulary to enable them to work in the text of the New Testament with the use of the lexicons and commentaries. They are also not impressed by hierarchical figures like pastors and professors telling them what doesn't work. There is nothing faddish about traditional pedagogy. It is not the latest bandwagon to climb on. It does have its weaknesses, for sure. If you feel it can be replaced by other approaches, have at it. But I for one am not convinced. I espouse the traditional approach because it accomplishes what it promises and no more. I have seen its fruitfulness in countless students who have gone on to teach Greek to others.

I am delighted at the diversity one finds in Greek pedagogy today. Whichever method you prefer, please use it to equip God's people for works of service. And there is no greater need for this equipping today than among the nations. To that end I would appreciate your prayers as I leave next week to begin another course in New Testament Greek in a faraway land.

Wednesday, April 2

8:12 AM Looking for a good movie to watch? Why not try "Seabiscuit"? I reviewed it here. This was one of my takeaways from the movie:

Success can be barriers to more learning. Seabiscuit's owner may have been satisfied with his horse's level of proficiency, but his trainer wasn't. While an owner of this type has a lot to be proud of within his limited sphere, he will have to swallow his pride in order to improve his product. After all, if you're winning, it hurts to admit that your horse might need some adjustments to improve his ability. But there's always room for improvement, especially when the motivation is a match race with the nation’s most talented horse.

This is where I am in my life right now. A student asked me the other day, "What are your goals for the next few years?" To be honest, I'm not sure that I have any. 37 years ago, when I was fresh out of the starting gate, I was full of eagerness. Goals I had, aplenty. Today the tendency is to kick back and relax. But a teacher can never become smug. There's always room for improvement, both in and out of the classroom. One change I made last year was showing up early for class. Just hanging out with the students gives them a chance to talk with you (if they want to) without having to make the long trek to your office. I'm also being more intentional about visiting my colleagues' offices to chat and pray with them. I'm sure there are many other "adjustments" I need to make. But let's never become complacent. Growth is not something just for upstarts. It's for all of us. Even us "long-shots" like Seabiscuit.

7:55 AM I see that Golden Gate Seminary is finally selling off its property in Marin County and moving to Southern California, which has a much larger population base and is a much more affordable place to live. Very smart move, in my opinion, and I speak as one who loved teaching on the main campus in Strawberry Point. I must have flown up there several dozens of times to lecture and loved flying into SFO and driving over the Golden Gate. I know of no other seminary better poised to reach the Pacific Rim nations with the Gospel than GGBTS. In multos annos!

7:45 AM Was at a church in Dallas a couple of weeks that had no Wi-Fi during their services. None. They have a website, of course, plus Twitter and Face Book, and they encourage online giving. But no Wi-Fi. I was glad to hear Paige Patterson in chapel yesterday invite the audience to "scroll down" to the passage he was preaching from. Yes, devices can be distracting, especially if you are a boring speaker. Starbucks has free Wi-Fi at all of its U.S. locations. I think local churches should be just as generous. Here’s a good Church Tech Today article about some technical approaches.

Tuesday, April 1

1:50 PM Wow, wow, wow! What a great chapel service we had today! Here are just a few tweets I read during the service:

Grateful today for Danny Akin and Paige Patterson. My life has ever been changed by these men.

What better way to celebrate the Akins than commissioning another batch of missionaries this morning.

Looking forward to the best chapel ever at SEBTS.

Here's the thing. None of us would be here today had it not been for Paige Patterson. That is most certainly true of yours truly. In 1998 he invited Becky and me to visit the seminary and then opened a slot in New Testament just for us to come. I've said it before, but I am the most blessed man on planet earth. I am so grateful for Paige and Dorothy Patterson. No one prayed harder for Becky during her illness than they did. I am so grateful for Danny and Charlotte Akin. They have stood by me through thick and thin and enabled me to be Becky's main caregiver at the end. God is doing a miracle today in world missions. At Southeastern, He is raising up hundreds of evangelists and church planters, educators and pastor-teachers. I sincerely believe that the task of world evangelization has never been more possible than at this point in history. "God's work done in God's way will never lack for His supply," said Hudson Taylor. Praise be to God. It is He who has raised up Southeastern for such a time as this. And to think that I get to play a small role in that work. Amazing Grace!

7:54 AM I just reserved a guest cottage in Kailua for the second week of July. That's just before I speak at several churches in West Oahu. I want to go into the weekend well rested, and what better way to do that than by visiting the place where I grew up. In fact, the cottage is only two blocks away from "my" beach and only one block from the house I first lived in when we moved to Kailua in 1955. It's funny -- this need to reconnect with the past. To you, that might not mean very much. It might conjure up images of surfing or soaking up the sun on the most pristine 3-mile stretch of beach in the world. For me, it is so much different and more. I feel the need to filter Becky's loss through the places we loved. We were there. We lived and loved together. I shared in her joy and she in mine. I felt the grip of her arms around my neck, the soft caress of her body, the smiles, the laughter, the good times. And there were many good times. I shared all of them with her and could not begin to describe to you the joy that made life so unbearably sweet.

Yesterday, after I addressed the Board of Visitors, many of them came up to me and told me they had been keeping up with me on the blog. So I'd just like to mention how encouraged I've been by all of you. I know that some people feel uncomfortable being around grieving people. They want you to get back to "normal" as quickly as possible, even if you are not ready for it. Thankfully, that has not been my experience. You all have given me permission to be Dave Black. Because Dave Black doesn't want to do a grief bypass. He wants to put down on paper his thoughts and feelings. He wants to describe what he has learned from his grief. He wants to enter fully into his sorrow. He wants to face grief head-on, deal with it, learn from it, let it do its perfect work. I'm learning that God is always present. He works the night shift. He is aware of my emptiness and seeks to fill it. He sees my open wounds and is prepared to heal them deeper than I can ever imagine. He is acquainted with grief. But His promises are true, and I believe He still has work for me to do. I have a new life ahead of me.

I think going back to Kailua is exactly what I need. Because sometimes it's good to remember. Sometimes you just need to stand on the beach and cry your eyes out, knowing that He won't love you any less if you do. Knowing that whatever He has in store for a widower like me, He'll be right there.

7:23 AM Read Not original therefore not inspired? The story of the woman taken in adultery. Of course, there are still those who believe that the passage is both original and inspired. The matter will be fully discussed later this month on campus. See our Pericope Adulterae Conference page.

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