February 2014 Blog Archives
Friday, February 28
5:14 PM Excited to see that my friend David Dockery has been elected the new president of Trinity International University in Deerfield, IL. David and I co-edited two books together, one for Zondervan (New Testament Criticism and Interpretation) and one for B & H (Interpreting the New Testament).
3:28 PM Hi folks! Sorry it's been a few days since I've blogged. How about a pictorial tour of my trip to California? Let's start with the reason for my trip -- my radio interviews with Don Stewart.
Don and I were in Greek class together at Biola about a million years ago. Somehow he got both the brains and the looks. I will also add this: He is one fantastic interviewer. He sure knows how to make his guests look good! I rarely do radio interviews, so I had no idea what to expect. But honestly, I don't think I've ever enjoyed myself more. This morning I stumbled across a blog post called 5 ways to rock a radio interview. The post describes 5 things that great radio guests do: They're calming, they're energetic, they give short but full answers, they express complex information simply, and they're friendly. You can judge for yourself whether or not we succeeded. (Here's the link: KWVE Radio. Just click on Podcasts, then click on Pastor's Perspective. I was interviewed on Monday Feb. 24 and Wednesday Feb. 26.) I listened to both interviews this morning while stuck in DC. Man, them guys seem to be having a goooood time.
Well, since I was going to be in Southern California, Don got me a speaking gig at Calvary Chapel Tustin, where I "thought out loud" about Jesus and His age 30 transition (Luke 3:23).
A lot of people loved my argument. Others not so much. But it's clear that this little "factlet" (Jesus was about 30 years old when He began His public ministry) is in the Bible for a reason. Then in the evening service I shared pix of Ethiopia and talked about the glory of sacrifice. As you know, Becky was a good example of sacrificial living. The basic point is that the Bible doesn't allow us to outsource missions to professionals. God told all of us to go, and I invited my audience to chew on that perspective. If we don't go, who will? I gotta tell ya, I really loved this congregation. I sensed they were not afraid to tackle difficult issues head on. Again, my thanks to Don for arranging all of this for me.
Monday night saw me at the Los Angeles Bible Training School in South Central Los Angeles. This is one tough neighborhood. I remember it well from my Biola days. Every Saturday I would go to South Central as part of the "Christian Service Assignment" that all Biolans were required to perform every semester. The assignment I chose was to play basketball with the street kids in Watts with a view to sharing with them the love of Jesus. So it was really cool to get back there again.
Mike (to my right) and Craig from Calvary Tustin were kind enough to drive me there.
Mike is a cop (can you tell?) and Craig is a retired Los Angeles fire fighter whose fire station was in the same neighborhood. Thanks, guys, for the sacrifice of your time and effort! Anyway, I spoke from Matt. 1:3-6 on "The Gospel According to Four Women" to a student body that was at least 90 percent non-Anglo. Oh, how I love that. Go LABTS!
And here's a nice serendipity. At church on Sunday who should I run across but the husband of Janice, Becky's former roommate at Biola! It was so cool seeing Randy Fouts again after all these years.
He even had a couple of pictures of his wedding for me. And guess what? Becky was one of Janice's bridesmaids. Ain't these some pretty gals?
And look who "just happened" to catch Janice's bouquet. (I think the whole thing was staged. Randy agrees -- LOL.)
Finally, Don and I ended up touring La Mirada, where Bec and I lived for 27 years before moving east. Here's the Biola Pool.
When it opened in 1976 I was the first lifeguard and swimming instructor Biola hired. And here's our former house on Stamy Road.
One might suppose that everything looked the same, but not true! The area looked much smaller than I remember it -- and much more run down. And here's where I used to ride Cody and Traveller.
Can you believe it -- La Mirada maintained a horse arena and a bridle path, and I was the only one who rode in those days!
Hey, I could go on and on but you're already bored. This trip far exceeded my expectations in every way. And to see the old haunts again -- well, that was an extra blessing. They triggered many happy memories, and some negative ones too. I relived many emotions I hadn't felt in a very long time. But the main emotion was joy and gratitude for the goodness of our God in allowing me to make this trip even though I was recovering from a nasty cold. One thing is for certain: You can never go back "home" again, for the simple reason that it never really is home after you leave it.
Two final pictures. Don and I really enjoyed each other's company. And we ate out -- a lot. Korean. Ethiopian. Greek. Even German.
I gotta tell you, it is to so refreshing to be with a guy who not only knows Greek and Hebrew, but who can also speak German and French as well as you can. Don, you da man!
Finally, here's the Prayer Chapel at Biola. I spent hours in this building seeking God's face.
Should I or shouldn't I marry Becky? Oh, did I agonize! To look at that building today and realize that I ended up spending 37 years with Becky Lynn Lapsley is almost too much to fathom. I can tell you -- prayer was work for me in those days. I didn't know then how prayer works, and I still don't know today. If I drop my cell phone, it will fall to the ground. That is a law of the universe. And if I pray, spiritual power is released. Paul talked about "wrestling" in prayer, borrowing an image from the Olympics. Prayer is the opposite of fun and games. It costs a great deal. The Bible often describes it as incense. And God likes the smell.
Infinite Love, You answered my prayers for a wife some four decades ago, and I cannot thank You enough. I asked for bread and an egg, and not only did You not give me a stone or a serpent, You gave me a giant of a woman, a mysterious complement to my masculinity. We made a good team. We shared many happy moments together. I sit in tears in front of my computer screen. Thank You. Life is so much more than I could have dreamed it to be. All because of Your great love.
Thanks for stopping by again.
Friday, February 21
12:30 PM How do I spell "relief"? Relief = printing out the final draft of my book Seven Marks of a New Testament Church.
It will give me something to work on during my flights tomorrow. I think this calls for a celebration. So where's a good Korean restaurant in Tustin? Time to indulge in some Kim chi and get my digestive system working great again.
12:14 PM Have you seen this photo? It's everywhere on the internet.
It shows a lady saving the life of her little niece in Florida. That really got me thinking. I really can't claim to be living by faith unless I'm living in obedience. Jesus was constantly talking about people who did something -- filling up water pots, giving up a lunch, stretching out a hand. The faith I have needs to be transformed into caring. Do I see a need that I can meet? I need to be just as quick as this dear lady to jump on it. It's my responsibility to see that it gets done. So I say, Dear Lord, thank you for this woman. Her act is a beautiful picture of what your love for us looks like. And that means that our Christian obligation is to act just like you act. Help me to do that. For Your Name's sake. Amen.
8:50 AM What was that you said? "Are you feeling up to traveling to California tomorrow?" Well, the answer is yes. I am no prophet, nor the son of a prophet. I even work for a non-prophet organization. But I can tell you this: If I've got the energy, I follow through on my commitments. Of course, it takes faith. Faith that God will sustain this old body of mine. (*Creak.*) But that's true in every area of my life right now. Every single time I begin to write a new book I'm aware that this might be the last one, that I've shot my wad. And then I give it everything I've got and somehow the book gets written. That's what faith means to me. It means coming to any task in life trustingly. I must remember that in the end, God is the one who gives me both the desire and the ability to do what pleases Him. That's all I need to know.
Not that anyone is necessarily interested, but here's my schedule:
In the meantime, please join me in praying that these meetings will be Spirit-led. Prayer is the opposite of self-sufficiency. And it's not optional. It's something to be engaged in, not indulged in. Only through prayer is spiritual power released. Thanks a whole lot!
8:30 AM Now this is some good writing, folks. Jody hits the nail on the head when it comes to marriage. She talks about a covenant marriage, and this is exactly what is needed today. Vows are required, advisedly and soberly. G. K. Chesterton once said that vows are "a yoke imposed by all lovers on themselves. It is the nature of love to bind itself, and the institution of marriage merely paid the average man the compliment of taking him at his word." Love has a huge price tag. And I'm so grateful that Becky was willing to pay it, for some 37 years. I say that with unspeakable thanksgiving. Our marriage was a gift from God. If ever a woman accepted the demands of her own marriage with simplicity and grace, it was Becky Lynn. She lived for others.
What about your marriage? Try thanking God for it. No, it won't be perfect. As Jody writes,
Our faculties must be trained by practice and taught by the Spirit of God to keep on going and going and going. In the end, it's not our experiences that change us. It is always and only our response to those experiences. Jody and Henry have taken the high road in their marriage, the covenant road, if you will. And for their example, I for one am truly grateful.
Thursday, February 20
5:35 PM Since some of you have asked (well, one person did), my radio interview on Monday will be from 3:00-4:00 pm, PST (that's 6:00-7:00 pm on the right coast). You can download the app for KWVE radio and listen to the live broadcast on your iPhone and other devices. The program is called Pastor's Perspective, which is kinda funny since I am not a pastor. But I do have a perspective on most issues. Don the host is a brilliant Bible and Greek scholar, so I will defer all the deeper questions to him. On the other hand, if you'd like to ask me where the best surfing beaches are in Hawaii or how to slaughter and butcher a beef cow, I'll be more than happy to give it a shot.
4:50 PM So I find this note from my daughter on the kitchen sink after she left:
Folks, if you're going through a tough time, lean on your family and friends. God puts the lonely and the suffering in families for a good reason. You say, "But I don't have a family that loves me." Then find a good church family and let them love on you. Both my blood family and my spiritual family have been a great blessing to me. They are the ones who have listened to my cries and have encouraged me to consider issues larger than myself. They are doing such a good of loving on me that I rarely have time to feel super lonely. Above all, trust God. He works everything together for good. I can attest to that fact. Even the severe mercy of losing your spouse is not without a good purpose. Amen?
3:37 PM Tonight at SEBTS: Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? Who they were and why you should care. The speaker is Dr. Jack Collins of Covenant Theological Seminary. Don't miss it. Admission is free.
12:40 PM One of my daughters is here. She just served me some home-cooked spaghetti. Heavenly. I think I'll get sick more often.
10:20 AM Did you know I'm completing yet another writing project for publication this year? I haven't talked about it much. But it's a project that's very near and dear to my heart. It's my life story as a teacher. The title is My Academic Journey: Confessions of a Very Surprised Greek Teacher. In fact, today I'm doing the final edits. Here's the photo that will appear on the front cover:
The reason I'm mentioning this to you now is because of my new affiliation with the Los Angeles Bible Training School (see below). You see, I have always been an incurable infracaninophile. My idea of a college or seminary is one that would intentionally reach out to those who would normally have no chance of engaging in formal biblical studies. That's why I'm so honored and humbled to be speaking at LABTS on Monday. Their vision is exactly my vision:
That's why their classes are in the evening. Students attend class after a hard day of work. Now that's commitment! If you'd like to get a glimpse of how I was once involved in such a school, read on. Here's an excerpt from my forthcoming book.
Ah, reaching the hard-to-reach. Providing high-quality biblical education to people on the front lines. What's not to love about it?
8:44 AM Some good news here for all of you Septuagint lovers. (And that's all of us, right?)
8:33 AM Lord willing, I'm speaking during chapel at the Los Angeles Bible Training School on Monday night at 8:00 pm. If you live in or near downtown Los Angeles, I would love to meet you. For directions, go here. I would be deeply grateful for your prayers.
Wednesday, February 19
8:02 PM Look at this map comparing Australia with the U.S. mainland.
I had no idea the continent was so huge. I guess this means I should probably give up any notion of driving from Sydney to Melbourne, doing the Great Ocean Road, and then hitting the Great Barrier Reef -- all in one day!
7:42 PM As you know, I'm a sucker for anything having to do with the Islands. Jessie found these books in a thrift store, and Nate just brought them by. Thanks a million, Jess!
My, my, what memories I have of taking a ride on a four-passenger plane above the Islands with Becky many years ago. It was great fun. But I do wish we had sailed from Lahaina to Oahu. Happiness: Crossing the Molokai Channel and finally seeing a tiny speck in the far distance called Diamond Head.
6:16 PM Let's see: I've been talkin' with some friends Down Under about a visit to Australia next spring. Isn't that cool? Wouldn't it be something to surf Manli or Bondy? In between lecturing and speaking, of course. I'll let you know how things turn out, but it sounds like them Aussies are downright serious. While surfing the Down-Under Web, I noticed that the 2014 Priscilla and Aquila Conference was just held at Moore Theological College in Sydney. The topic was singleness, marriage, divorce, and remarriage in ministry. According to this webpage, audio from the lectures will be made available shortly. It should make for some very interesting listening. Breaking one's wedding vows has become all too common among evangelicals today. I'm witnessing the impact of divorce in some very personal ways. Marriages I know and love are in trouble. There's much more to say, but for the moment let me suggest that we read the Gospels on this subject if we haven't already. Luke 16:18 is clear as to what the biblical position ought to be. And if I may put in a plug for a work I co-edited (with Allan Bevere), I still think H. Van Dyke Parunak's Except for Fornication is an exceptionally well-written treatise on the subject. Pastors, give it a look if you haven't already. And remember guys: a vow is a vow.
P.S. Just how does one say "Cowabunga" in Australia?
10:30 AM From my foreword to Thomas Hudgins' new book Luke 6:40 and the Theme of Likeness Education in the New Testament:
You'll love this book!
10:06 AM Loved this quote by my colleague Nathan Finn (Calvinism: A Southern Baptist Dialogue, p. 192):
9:58 AM Ministry update: Lord willing, this Sunday night at 6:00 pm at Calvary Chapel in Tustin I will be presenting our pictures of Ethiopia and talking about missions. I love every chance I get to do this. I will go anywhere to glorify the Lord who is at work in Africa. I will also have a book table featuring Becky's brand new autobiography at a reduced price. Please stop by and get a copy if you can. I will only have 20 copies, so first come, first served. (I note with glee that her book is now outselling most of my books at Amazon. That rascal!)
9:36 AM Quote of the day:
Read An Interview with Ken Keathley. This is so right on. Jesus' kingdom is not of this world. Period. He never tried to work with Caesar, but He revolted against the world system in a -- shall we say? -- Christlike way. What's odd is that the very people who predict that the end times will experience a great falling away from the faith are those who are often big on staging political protests or who attempt to use the political machinery to effect societal change. Folks, politics is ambiguous at best -- which means that we must be very careful not to insist that "our" position is the only "Christian" position (a point I try to make in my book Christian Archy). Now I'm totally okay with Christians expressing their political views. But please, please don't call this kingdom activism. So, in the end, I'm with Ken Keathley. I rejoice that our nation is heading in a direction that is forcing Christians to "walk against the grain" (as Keathley says). It forces the church to be the real church. And it reminds us that the only way to live is the Jesus way, the way of self-sacrificial love.
(Note to Dave: Such talk is cheap. Are you actually living this way?)
9:18 AM Would love to be able to attend this lecture on Friday at my sister seminary in New Orleans:
The speaker is Kurt Wise, Professor of Natural History and Director of the Creation Research Center at Truett-McConnell College. Methinks he's got some pretty impressive credentials (Ph.D. in Paleontology from Harvard University). For details, click here. Incidentally, you might not know that my own seminary held a conference on the subject of "Origins" last October. It was called "Noah's Flood and the Age of the Earth: A Dialogue Between Old Earth and Young Earth Creationists." Sadly, I'm not aware of any recordings that were made of the event.
Last night while laying in bed I decided to watch the Nye-Ham debate. It wasn't a debate at all, of course, but rather a series of lectures. It seemed to me that the speakers talked past each other. Who won? Your guy, of course! I loved listening to Ham (his accent is great), but Nye was better dressed (haha). Honestly, I was shocked that neither speaker had earned anything higher than a bachelor's degree. (Please, I know this is just a personal bias of mine, but honorary doctorates don't carry any weight with me.) Just so you know where I stand, I am a young earther. I am also pretty much a literalist when it comes to Genesis 1-11. For example, there is no way I think we can jettison the historical Adam. Yank the historicity of the fall out of the picture, and what have you done with the redemption story of Scripture (which has four, not three, parts: creation, fall, redemption, and consummation)? The historicity of Adam matters to me, and it matters a lot.
I suppose the debate will continue until Jesus returns. As Al Mohler notes in his post-debate essay, it really boils down to a matter of one's presuppositions and worldview. I heartily agree!
8:20 AM So much to be grateful for today. I am slowly recovering from my respiratory infection. Perhaps I'm 60 percent today. So this morning I want to thank all of my "affirmers" -- those of you who constantly stand beside me and inspirit me through your emails and prayers. You are great teammates. You are an indispensable part of my ministry. You are friends and not mere acquaintances. The apostle Paul had a cadre of special friends and he would often recognize them for their contribution to his life and work. One of you is my Philemon ("I have derived much joy and comfort from your love," Philem. 1:7). Another is my Onesiphorus ("He often refreshed me," 2 Tim. 1:16). And how I love my Aquilas and Priscillas with whom I work and occasionally live (Acts 18:3). Once, during a particularly exhausting journey, Paul met the brethren from Rome at Three Taverns. Luke says this of that meeting: "On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage" (Acts 28:15). Right now my life and passion have been drained away in the exhaustion of grief and travel. Yet you have stood with me, and I take courage. Why, just this morning I received this wonderful email:
And that was just one of several prayer emails.
Your prayers are precious to me. They provide a protective curtain about me as I engage (as all of you do) in daily spiritual warfare. You are asking the Father that He might grant me spiritual passion so that I do not grow weary. The apostle Paul was wise enough to realize that he could not function properly without partners. You are indeed partners with me in this great work. Know that I am treasuring your prayers, lifting you up in prayer even as you intercede for me. We fight this battle together.
Tuesday, February 18
11:54 AM Amazon is now listing Becky's book. Sweetastik! You can also purchase a copy at the publisher's website. I'm not one of those who believes that the reading of Christian biographies is on the way out. There especially seems to be a notable quickening of interest among students. In college I read every missionary biography I could get my hands on -- stories of men and women who had completely surrendered their lives to Christ and who served Him sacrificially. Becky's book is meant to help you grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Take up and read!
11:38 AM Those of you who have been following this blog for any length of time know that I am going through a very unique season of life. It's not one of choice, at least not my choice. Rather than fight against it, I am trying to allow grief to take its normal progression. The fact that most of us have never been taught how to cope with loss doesn't make things any easier. It's not a very comfortable place to be in. Life seems to have lost its sure footing. It's more like the soft slushy mud I walked through this morning while feeding the cattle. Life is like my raw and fragile nose that has been blown so many times it has turned a bright red. I feel hurt, a bit confused, and, to be honest, a little anxious. How well will you handle all this, Dave? Perhaps the leading challenge I am dealing with right now, three months after Becky's death, is one of mental exhaustion. Even seemingly menial tasks can become a challenge. This is a very new feeling for me. Until Becky's Homegoing, I seemed to have had boundless energy. There was very little I couldn't do, or at least felt I couldn't do. Now it takes the greatest concentration to accomplish even the simplest of chores. Multitasking is no longer easy. I find myself easily distracted and sometimes even disoriented. And I am normally a very decisive guy. Decision-making involves enormous concentration.
So how am I coping with all of this?
First off, by being patient with myself. Grief is a long process. It will take lots of time. No need to rush myself through this experience, or let others try to rush me (thankfully no one has tried to do this -- yet). Slowness is okay right now. Not being able to multitask is acceptable. And so I plan my days accordingly. I focus on one thing at a time -- washing my clothes, cleaning the kitchen, going grocery shopping, feeding the animals, paying the bills, writing my book chapters, emailing, etc. If I'm in the middle of a project, I will probably let the phone ring. I can always get the message later.
Secondly, by focusing on what I do well. In recent months I have become quite the expert in banking, trusts, estates, and taxes. But finances are not my strength. It's something I do because I have to do it. You all know what I really love to do (speak and write), but even here I am trying to guard myself against trying to do too much too quickly. An example is the itinerary for my trip to California next week. My schedule tries to achieve a healthy balance between activity and rest/socialization. The main purpose for the trip is a radio interview on Monday with a good friend of mine and former buddy at Biola. But we'll also just hang out together and get reacquainted. I will get to meet his wife and his friends. I will get to speak in his home church 3 times on Sunday morning and once on Sunday evening. The rest of my week-long trip will be R & R, except for a brief chapel message Monday night at one of the local Bible colleges and speaking at a pastors/pastors wives luncheon on Tuesday. Don has not only encouraged me to grieve but has also supported me in my grief. He realizes that when Becky died (and Don knew Becky personally), something very precious to me was ripped away. He invited me to visit him partly, I think, because he knew how much I love to talk about Jesus and the Bible. I suspect he also knew that I enjoy Southern California and its ethnic diversity.
Thirdly, by rethinking relationships. Becky was my link to a good many relationships. I'm discovering, now that she's gone, that some of those relationships are fading while others are being deepened. I am even making brand new friendships with people neither of us knew prior to her death. The work in Ethiopia has officially been passed on to the younger generation of missionaries. Priorities toward family members have become reordered. I am finding a new depth in many of these relationships. All this has been deeply satisfying to me.
Fourthly, by accepting my aloneness. Notice I did not say "loneliness." The ache in my heart is still there, but I sense that He is right here with me, sharing that pain. He is the Lord over every loss and over every heartache. When, at night, while I am sleepless for thinking about her, it's almost as if Jesus Himself were physically in the room when I say, "I still love you, Becky Lynn. Thank you for the life we shared together. Thank you for the happy memories. Thank you for enriching my life a hundredfold. I am letting you go, but in one sense you will never leave me. I miss you, darling. I love you. I will never forget you." With Him, I know I have no secret feelings. He knows it all. He shares the burden. He is still my best Friend.
And finally, by remembering the importance of touch. Not only physical touch, of course. I am not too proud to admit that right now I need other people in my life. Someone to talk to me, to hold my hand, to go places with me, someone to listen to. They might even cry with me when words just won't cut it. At times they need to be tough with me and remind me that "I shouldn't be feeling this" is the wrong attitude. It's not a betrayal or disloyalty to lovingly speak the truth to a grieving person.
So there you have it. I'm sure it's much more than you were expecting. I know that many of you are concerned about me, but God is absolutely looking out for me. And so are you. Thank you so much.
You're still praying, aren't you?
9:26 AM I gotta make a confession. I'm not impressed with the new movie Son of God, at least from what I've seen in the trailer. The second commandment clearly forbids making anything that is thought to be representative of God. Apparently the reason is that the object ends up obscuring the true nature of God. Really, when you think about it, it is impossible to create an image of God that truly represents Him (Isa. 40:8). On the other hand, God has spoken fully and finally in one whose status is "Son" (Heb. 1:1-2). So, is depicting Jesus through a human actor an act of making an image of God? Perhaps. The best (and only true source) of our knowledge of God is His word. So see the movie if you like, but don't take anything in it as authoritative. (Jesus probably didn't look like the actor who portrays Him.) In his book Knowing God, Packer argued that "as soon as the images are treated as representational rather than symbolic, they begin to corrupt the devotion they trigger." So let's be careful about symbolic art that claims to be representational. Digital or celluloid images are hardly infallible.
For more, I recommend Francis A. Schaeffer, Art and the Bible (IVP) and Leland Ryken, Art for God’s Sake (Crossway).
Monday, February 17
5:20 PM Well, it's official: upper respiratory infection. Had to wait 3 hours to see a doctor, but it was worth it. With medication, he promises me that I will be better by Friday. Thanks to everyone who's written to say you are praying. There are thousands of things I want to accomplish next week in California, but there's just one thing I need to do this week: Rest.
11:36 AM Now this was a fun read: The awkward truth about snake-handling: it’s totally Biblical. It all depends on how you read Mark 16:9-20 -- original or not? The commenter is correct when he says, "There are plenty of biblical inerrantists who correctly discern this long ending of Mark as extra-biblical, using basic textual criticism." Alas, there are other biblical inerrantists would politely disagree. Which is why I published Perspectives on the Ending of Mark. Read at your own risk!
11:22 AM Hi folks! So what have I been doing besides wallowing in self-pity (haha)? Well, my daughters have been calling, texting, and emailing. I love being pampered. Then Karen stopped by to cook some chicken soup for me and to take Nigusse to campus. What a blessing. This afternoon I'll try and see the doctor in town as a walk-in. So life is good and only getting better. My goal for today, other than to rest, is to reread the chapters of my book Seven Marks of a New Testament Church. I am really enjoying writing this tome. It will be an unpretentious book. Several of you have asked me for something short and practical about the local church. Some of you are, frankly, suspicious of the organized church. Jesus may be popular today, but the church isn't. My book explores reasons why we should fall in love with the church all over again. Scholars will find it too simple, but simplicity is, I believe, a salutary fault for a professor of New Testament and Greek. My material comes from a simple reading of the New Testament rather than from the many books on the subject. If it says nothing about church membership classes, it's only because the New Testament itself says nothing about that subject. But the New Testament is crystal clear that we are all members of Christ's body, and that each member has an important job to do. That job includes "ministry." My prayer for us all is that we may learn to think biblically about the church -- and may be ready to obey what is the truth. And, while I certainly do appreciate all the books out there about the church, I really do wish they were shooting at a different bull's eye.
That's all for now. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus!
Sunday, February 16
10:24 AM Decided to get out of bed for a few minutes and check emails. Slept soundly last night for 12 hours. It felt good. I'm paying a terrible price for my lack of sleep. But the upshot is I have plenty of time right now to think about it. So here are a few takeaways (between nose-blowings):
1) If you're going to buy facial tissue, be sure it is the extra-absorbent kind with aloe. Otherwise your nose will soon be reduced to sand paper.
2) Listen to your body. We Baby-Boomers are trying harder, worker longer, breathing heavier, and getting wearier. The fact is, I'm not the man I was just 5 years ago. I've got to learn how to pace myself better. Why, I think I'll start this week!
3) Cut down on your list-of-things-to-do. I'm terrible at saying no, especially to challenging and needs-oriented opportunities to serve Jesus. It's funny, but if you do a few things well, word gets around and suddenly people will come out of the woodwork with potential additions to your schedule. A friend of mine in California recently emailed me and said, "Remember, Dave, rest is a part of training." He's right, of course, but my skull can be pretty thick at times.
4) Know yourself. I'm a doer. And doing sometimes means less time with God. Talking replaces meditation -- or listening. I want to keep busy -- like Jesus and the apostle Paul -- forgetting that in the first century there were long hours of quietness. It took a week to travel from Galilee to Jerusalem. Today it's breakfast in Raleigh, lunch in Toronto, and dinner in Addis Ababa. The pace of life in the first century was characterized by "obstacles" we've overcome today by modern transportation and cyber-communications. My guess is that the apostle Paul knew nothing about jet-lag. I normally go-go-go, even when I'm tired, relying on my "reserve" energy. It used to work. Not anymore.
5) Finally, even though I realize that the disorientation caused by Becky's death will eventually pass, right now my sorrow still feels like an oppressive weight. It's the major cause of my sleeplessness at night. I'm still saying goodbye to Becky -- accepting the reality of her passing, working through my grief, adjusting to daily life on the farm without her by my side, reinvesting my emotional energy in others, and changing my relationship to Becky from one of presence to one of memory. The experts agree that the process usually lasts anywhere from 18-24 months. "There is a time for everything.... A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance" (Eccl. 3:1,4). I am ready to make the transition, but I know it will take time. Grief has a beginning, but it also has an end. Right now I'm just trying to let grief do its good work. There are insecurities in letting go. But "letting go" doesn't mean I won't remember Becky any more. It simply means shifting my focus. Every person grieves in a different way. I am healing slowly, painfully. But thank God I am healing.
Now back to bed!
Saturday, February 15
7:44 PM This is one cruddy cold I'm fighting. The dogs are full of sympathy. Been drinking tons of juice and water and trying to rest. As for eating, let's see ... "Starve a fever and feed a cold," right? Or was it the other way around?
10:58 AM Have a full-blown head cold. Thankfully it didn't develop until last night, which meant that Karen and I could enjoy Tchaikovsky, Berlioz, and Prokofiev at the Meymandi Concert Hall in Raleigh.
We had fourth-row seats.
The music was heavenly, to say the least. Classical music is the perfect genre for understanding how things are put together, much like a New Testament letter. I hear that Les Mis is now playing. Karen tells me it's a must-see. Hopefully we can squeeze it in. By the way, it's good to see so many younger people becoming fans of classical music as they age. True, most of the audience were fossils like me, but there were a bunch of young Valentines there too.
Karen and I talked a lot about mom over dinner. Our hearts have been broken and pieced back together a million times, it seems. We have grown so much through this experience of watching Becky live and die, and looking back I know that none of us is the same person we were only a year ago. Love, I am learning, is a willingness to participate in humanity, to expose oneself to a broken world and broken lives. Love is God pushing you toward the edge of the plank and then asking you to jump off. But, oh, the joys of love! It makes the sorrows worthwhile, wouldn't you agree?
Friday, February 14
9:55 AM From the back cover of Becky's book:
What an honor and joy to write those words.
9:42 AM The latest issue of the Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal features a gutsy essay titled Why a Commitment to Inerrancy Does Not Demand a Strictly 6000-Year-Old Earth: One Young Earther's Plea for Realism.
8:04 AM How did you meet your Valentine? Here's my story as told by Becky in her new book:
So what attracted me to Becky?
1) She was tall and unashamed of it. She was also very good-looking. At the same time, she seemed to be totally unconscious of her beauty. I appreciated that.
2) She was strong. She could think for herself. She had deep convictions about right and wrong. She was determined to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit in her life and to hack away at the roots of the flesh.
3) She had self-control. She didn't give in to every whim, desire, or temptation.
4) She was, like me, pretty much a loner. She walked to the beat of a different drum. She was, in a sense, a non-conformist. Being one myself, I was naturally attracted to that virtue.
5) She was kind. She allowed Christ to work through her life to touch lives and show biblical compassion in very ordinary ways.
6) Her smile was infectious.
7) Lastly, she was characterized by joy. No nose-in-the-air stuffiness about Becky! Jesus was as much a man of joy as He was a Man of Sorrows. Becky knew what pain felt like (her rheumatoid arthritis was a case in point), but she was no gloomy pious nincompoop.
What about your Valentine? What do you love about him or her? Why not tell them today?
7:34 AM The storm is past. The gloom is over. The birds are again chirping. The sun's grandeur has been rekindled. Like Christ at His resurrection, glory has burst its bounds. And now He lives to light our lives forever.
Last night, I thought about Becky as I drifted off to sleep. Our final months together were like a monster snowstorm. The razzle-dazzle of romance had fizzled away. God's power was funneled into a sick, emaciated body. So with Jesus. He was born in a stinking stable and died in disgrace. Life had fizzled out for Him.
Then came the morning.
Jesus rose from death, eternally victorious over the grave. All the pain, the grief, the hardship was gone, forever. And He left behind a powerful message for all of His followers: What you can't do, God can do. He'll go on helping you, day after wintry day. Because it is His nature to do so. Because resurrection is always right around the corner. If you have any doubts about it, just read about the life of Jesus. Or, for that matter, about the life of Becky Lynn Black.
Thursday, February 13
6:40 PM How in the world is a guy to get any writing done when he keeps getting interrupted by his sweet puppies?
6:23 PM Today's high in Waikiki? 81 degrees. Those poor Islanders.
6:04 PM Hoping to take one of my daughters to the symphony in Raleigh tomorrow night, but we'll have to see how the roads are. Praying that the snow plows reach Timbuktu in time.
5:12 PM Just fed the animals their hay. The latest round of the winter storm dropped another 6 inches. Here are a few pictures for Netsanet in Ethiopia. Do you get any snow in Alaba, Choo Choo? :)
12:10 PM Grateful for colleagues who are Great Commission-minded.
11:33 AM "What is unnecessary, even if it only costs one cent, is expensive." Seneca.
10:36 AM "Christians are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus' sake." D. A. Carson on Twitter.
10:05 AM On days like this ....
... it's always nice to have company like this.
9:10 AM When I was growing up in Hawaii, our churches would hold annual prophecy conferences. Often Hal Lindsey or John Walvoord would be the featured speakers. I soon tired of the events. For some, prophecy almost seemed to be a god. It was as though the only books in the Bible were Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelation (you could also throw in Matthew 24-25 for good measure). There was a "Boom in Doom," as Time Magazine put it one year on its cover. Even today, some churches and even whole denominations seem addicted to end times teaching. "Jesus is coming soon" they cry. "So let's hold more prophecy conferences!" I have two responses:
1) In an age of fuzzy thinking, I am all for Bible conferences, be they prophetic or otherwise. The most momentous event to occur since Jesus visited this earth will be His Second Coming. The Bible stresses this doctrine, and so should we.
2) That same level of eagerness and enthusiasm also ought to mark our attitude toward reaching the lost. If we live in anticipation that Christ could come today or tomorrow, how much more should we be eager to "Be busy until I come back!" (Luke 19:13). Yes, our hearts should be ready to see the Lord, but our lives need to be in order when He does come back.
What does this mean practically for me? Well, for starters, please do not expect a very long discussion if you ask me about my eschatology. For example, I am not interested in debating with you when the rapture will take place. I have my own convictions, as I'm sure you do too. (I'll tip my hand: I'm a dispensationalist.) Instead, I will probably ask you when was the last time you shared the Gospel with anyone. Jesus didn't tell us when He would return; He just told us to live in anticipation of it all all times. That's why, when I wake up in the morning, I usually have two thoughts on my mind. "Lord Jesus, come soon, please! I am tired of the struggle of the Christian life. I've grown weary in well doing, of apologizing when I offend others, of coping with loneliness, of making excuses for not serving you as well as I should. I know you've been preparing a home in heaven for me for many years, and I imagine it's going to be quite a place. But most of all I just want to see you, to kiss Your feet and say 'Thank you' for all You have done for me." That's one thought that enters my mind. The other goes like this: "Dear Lord, you have been so good to me. I am secure in Your love. I know my body is a poor shell of what it used to be, but I want You to use it this day, this week, this year to glorify You, even if that means travelling to faraway places. Your cross means everything to me. The closer I get to it, the more truly I love You. I want Your risen life to come in and possess me. I want You to shine out through me. And I'm putting the rest of my life at Your disposal. Show me where I can be useful. Show me the needs You want to meet through me. Make me Your representative, your ambassador in the world. Help me to care for others whether or not they are nice or responsive. Love them through me. Allow me the joy of leading others to You personally. Give me a faith that speaks louder than words. Just as the snow plows are clearing the roads today, clear my heart of the drifts of apathy and indifference. Jesus, I love You!"
I serve a God who is beautiful. He's beautiful because He takes on Himself all that is ugly in this world and redeems it. We manifest true kingdom love, not by talking about the Second Coming, but as we experience the love of God and as that love transforms us into kingdom-people who are all about transforming society, not through politics but by sacrificing our time and resources for others. The simple fact is that we're called to follow Christ's example of self-sacrificial love, even for our enemies. That alone is our unique power to change society.
So, altogether now: "Come, Lord Jesus!"
In the meantime, let's imitate God as He is revealed in Jesus (Eph. 5:2), not the god of Bible prophecy.
8:20 AM Why authors need good editors:
8:05 AM Well, Becky's book is about to be released. I don't know who is more excited, the publisher or me. The one word the book does not contain is "almost." No one would accuse Becky of being an "almost" Christian. Unlike cyclist Floyd Landis, who won the 2006 Tour de France only to be stripped of his crown for using banned drugs during the race. Unlike the rich young man who refused to sell his possessions and follow Jesus because he was unwilling to put Christ first in his life (Mark 19:17-22). Unlike that Greek student of mine who would have passed the exam had he studied more. When it comes to dying well -- and even living well -- almost is not good enough. I loved Becky for the way she lived and died. Unlike so many women of our day, she placed little value on appearance and style. Her clothes were homespun, and she wore little makeup. Hers was a natural beauty. God accepted her the way she was, without qualifications. She always stuck out in a crowd. As a child in Ethiopia, she was ridiculed, spat upon, even stoned because she was a follower of Jesus. As an adult, she served the Lord in dangerous places where Christians are still being murdered for their faith. Even during her long illness, she laughed at her troubles, as if to say with Helen Keller, "I thank God for my handicaps, for through them I have found myself, my work, and my God." In our day, it seems that good looks are valued more than a good name, titles rank higher than testimonies, egotism trumps altruism. People think God is unfair, that He has set the bar too high. Well, if you think like that, I've got a book I want you to read. Nothing stood between Becky and her Savior. How about you? What is it in your life that is holding you back? Becky would say, "For God's sake, get rid of it. Amputate it. Heaven can't wait."
Did you notice, by the way, how Becky was always Becky? She concentrated exclusively on being herself, and she always let others be themselves. She was comfortable with her own looks, style, surroundings, and gifts. She enjoyed her own unique personality. Friend, please realize that when God made you, He made an original. When He created you, He was pleased. He could do no better. And if we love Him with all our hearts, there really is no room for competing loves. If He is truly Lord, His throne cannot be shared with anyone else. That's how Becky lived. She understood Jesus' lordship. Jesus keeps hoping the rest of us will realize that, but many of us appear to be comfortably asleep. That's why He says, "Wake up, sleeper! Rise up from the dead! Then Christ will shine on you!" (Eph. 5:14). That includes you and me, too.
Wednesday, February 12
3:03 PM Read God’s Better Way (Phil. 2:1-11).
2:20 PM My friend Mike Holmes will be giving a lecture tomorrow in honor of his former doctoral advisor at Princeton, Bruce Metzger (see A Centennial Tribute to Bruce Metzger: Remembering His Achievements, Influence, and Legacy.)
I second that. Bruce Metzger was one of the most genteel scholars I have ever known. An aside: When I was editing Scribes and Scripture: New Testament Essays in Honor of J. Harold Greenlee, I well recall getting Dr. Metzger's contribution. His manuscript was typed on an ancient typewriter (not a word processor), replete with hand-written corrections and White-Out. What a treasure.
12:24 PM Odds and ends...
1) Been prepping for the next snowstorm. Ran to the bank (while the roads are still passable), the grocery store, filled up the van with gas, got new batteries for the golf cart, dropped off the flat tractor tire to be repaired, and fed the animals plenty of hay. I also needed to check on Maple Ridge and had to install a new lamp in the well house. We're expecting guests here on Monday, so the house needs to be in tip-top shape. Well, at least the water needs to be running :)
2) I see that Henry Neufeld has been distracted while editing Becky's book. Loved that quote, Henry!
3) Roger Olson thanks God for non-fighting fundamentalists. I seem to recall that Jesus, just before leaving this world, gave His disciples some parting instructions: "I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should you love each other" (John 13:34). Then He added the clincher: "This is how the world will know that you are My disciples: Your love for one another will prove it" (v. 35). When I lived in Switzerland I recall Francis Schaefer saying, "The greatest apologetic for Christianity is love." So how do you judge the vitality of your Christianity? By your doctrine? Some do. They equate Christianity with a set of religious dogmas. Doctrine is indeed serious business with Christ. But when you're filled with His Spirit, you are going to be loving others, even those with whom you strongly disagree theologically. When you discover this truth, you will have begun to put first things first.
4) This is a bit early, but Happy Birthday to my good friend Craig Bennett, who turns 29 (for the 18th time!) this Saturday.
Tuesday, February 11
3:42 PM I've been counseling with several people of late about how to get along in church with people you disagree with. Again, the passage I spoke from last Sunday speaks to this issue loud and clear (Phil. 1:27-30).
Why bother with getting along? Because we are a team. We're in this together. Calvinists, Arminians, Molinists, homeschoolers, public schoolers, private schoolers, male and female, adults and youth, black and white. Together, we're a melting pot of people who overlook our differences to work for something bigger than any one of us. And by meeting together week in and week out, despite our differences, we affirm the importance of our spiritual family and create a sense of unity that spans all divides. As head of the church, Jesus Christ has called us to unity, to celebrate the diversity that marks His people, to join Him in reaching a lost world though mutual acts of love. Through His Holy Spirit, He's at work in us -- helping us to live and work together to meet our goals.
James was right: loving actions do speak louder than words. A divisive spirit is sin. Let's heed the warning.
3:20 PM Spoke about this verse on Sunday (1 Cor. 7:29).
I thought I'd try and translate it for you (into plain English):
I think the secret of the early church was the fact that for them, evangelism was not an option. It was the sacred duty of every believer, whatever their marital status was. It doesn't take much imagination to think how odd this verse must sound to Paul's hearers today. Our culture idolizes marriage. Even Christians can be guilty of this. But Paul is clear: The time is short, and it is only getting shorter. Don't focus on your marriage. Don't make a god out of your spouse. If you are single, serve the Lord with single-minded devotion. Even if you are married, you can still be as single-minded as an unmarried person. Friends, if both partners at home have come to know the joy of placing Jesus and His kingdom first in their marriage, I can almost guarantee that this will bring new depth to the relationship. It is a beautiful thing, is it not, for a Christian couple to go to sleep at night in each others' arms having lived that day for others? This is Heaven's strategy for reaching a lost world. And though it is costly, it is infinitely satisfying.
This is the happiest memory I have of Becky. Together we simply tried to serve Him. Cancer did not interrupt that effort. Despite months of tests and treatments, of hopes kindled and then extinguished, we were sure that He was still loving us, caring for us, using us. I will always be thankful for such a gift of grace. It is Jesus Christ, and only Jesus Christ, who gives us the power to serve God with all of our married heart, soul, and strength.
Below: December of 2006, three years before Becky's diagnosis.
Each Christmas you would find us with our Ethiopian family. On our last night in Alaba, gifts were exchanged and speeches were made.
How has your understanding of marriage changed in light of reading 1 Corinthians 7? Jot down a few of the new concepts, and perhaps discuss them with your spouse. I pray that Christ's new life may surge into your marriage, pushing out the old and making room for the new.
7:15 AM Jesus repeatedly emphasized that following Him meant radically changing our priorities. What did He mean when He said, "Seek first the kingdom of God"? Here are some ideas:
1) Seek first the kingdom of God vocationally. Ask tough questions about your employment. Are you where God wants you to be? If so, are you using your occupation to advance God's kingdom?
2) Seek first the kingdom of God maritally. Have a Great Commission Marriage. Put the kingdom first in your married and family life.
3) Seek first the kingdom of God geographically. The issue of where we live has everything to do with the kingdom. Let's be open to God's guidance. Unlike our secular counterparts, we can no longer select a place to live based merely on comfort, affordability, good schools, etc.
4) Seek first the kingdom of God ecclesiologically. I strongly urge you to find a church home that shares your urgency for the kingdom and global missions. Traditional wisdom dictates that we are to seek a church on the basis of buildings, programs, convenience, and, regrettably, personalities. As a result, church life becomes inwardly-focused, and we fail to become the presence of the kingdom in society. When Becky and I joined our church in Roxboro, NC, we did so largely because of its clear and consistent vision to be a part of the kingdom initiative of God. It seeks to manifest the values of Jesus' upside-kingdom. It gives high priority to missions. Our goal is to strive as authentically as possible to incarnate the life and teachings of Jesus in our corporate and individual lives.
5) Seek first the kingdom of God financially. Jesus calls us to avoid the rat race of consumerism and materialism. Let's reexamine our lifestyles to see how we can free up dollars for the kingdom.
6) Seek first the kingdom of God physically. Obesity and self-indulgence characterize many American evangelicals. It never occurs to us that avoiding overeating is a way to serve the kingdom. As disciples we are called to set aside physical comfort and devote our bodies to God as living sacrifices. I struggle constantly to keep my weight under control. But I must maintain good physical condition if I am to be able to walk long distances in Ethiopia.
7) Seek first the kingdom of God ministerially. Every believer is a fulltime "minister." Churches can do much more to utilize qualified volunteers who essentially pay themselves to serve. We must change the emphasis in our churches from hiring professional staff to equipping "laypeople" to be the church.
8) Seek first the kingdom of God institutionally. Let's ask, "How can we use our corporate resources most effectively and sacrificially for the kingdom?" Take our church buildings. Surely we can do a better job in constructing and utilizing church properties so as to channel more resources into missions and service to the needy. I once read of a congregation of 4,000 in Oregon that, instead of building a new sanctuary, established a separate corporation to build a self-supporting convention hall that the church uses free of charge. Another example: Missionary organizations can separate overhead costs from money raised for missionaries. In other words, money contributed to missionary causes would go entirely to these causes, while all overhead costs (including salaries for executives) would be raised separately.
9) Seek first the kingdom of God intellectually. Has Christ's lordship had any effect on your thought life? What you read? Your attitudes? Sometimes it is easier to read books about the Scriptures than to read the Scriptures themselves. What makes us think that commentaries or websites are more important than the Word of God? We neglect the Bible to our own peril. I often remind my students that 99 percent of what I know about God and the Christian life I learned from reading my Bible rather than books about the Bible. God does not ask us to forego reading books by human authors (goodness, I've written my share of them), but His lordship is not visible in our lives until we prioritize His Word.
These are some practical ways by which we can seek first the kingdom of God. I'm sure many others could be mentioned. Seeking first the kingdom of God means that our time, our money, our very selves are available to God, to our brothers and sisters in Christ, and to the world. It's not a matter of simply attending church or participating in endless rounds of programs. It's about changing the world by becoming what Jesus intended the church to be: a servant to the world. "The church is only the church when it exists for others," said Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Christ calls us to pour our lives into the needy world that surrounds us. He promises us that as we do this, we will find that His yoke of service is easy and His burden is light. If you live this way, you will find His promise -- as Becky and I have -- to be true.
Monday, February 10
6:15 PM Did you know that Kregel publishes my first-year Greek vocabulary for your I-Pod or cell phone? It's called iVocab Biblical Greek. Check it out.
1:04 PM I feel like it's been forever since I talked to you about what's really been on my heart these days. Oddly enough, it's Hawaii. It's the strange tug I feel to return there for ministry, not just once or twice but on a regular basis. I feel like a small child, wondering what's around the next corner. I could blame it on the fact that I was hatched and raised there. But it's not just that. I have, if you will, a sense of obligation, the kind of obligation Paul mentions in one of my favorite verses in Romans (slightly paraphrased):
To say that my visit there a couple of weeks ago was exciting would be an understatement of classic proportions. When I got back to the Islands I felt at home. Really at home. I was totally overwhelmed by a feeling that I somehow belonged there, could understand the people -- not just the wealthy Islanders on the Windward side where I grew up, but the less fortunate folk who live in what is often considered the less-desirable part of Oahu, where government housing is evident everywhere, where drugs and alcohol are rife, where the need for the Gospel is so obvious. If God is going to bring me here, these are the people I want to minister among. Right now we're planning my next trip to Oahu in July. I hope to host a pastors' luncheon, do a "Myth of Adolescence" conference, and teach several times in the churches in West Oahu. Above all, I want to come alongside my pastor friends and do whatever I can to help them grow in their faith and love of Christ, even desiring to offer them Greek (though in what format, I don't yet know).
This is the Hawaii I am learning to love all over again. Not the place of fun and games and surfing and diving and sailing, but the place of opportunity for service even amidst the darkness, where, thank God, a bright light is shining. In the midst of all of this, Becky's book is about to be published. I'm finding it oddly comforting to know that her voice will still be heard, to anyone who will take the time to listen. Of course, as you read her life story, Becky will strangely disappear. Like the bright and morning star, she will simply fade away in the light of the Rising Son, whom alone she sought to honor in the writing of her book.
I love life. I love Becky (still). I love Hawaii. I want so badly to serve anywhere in the world the Lord sends me.
Someone said to me recently, "Dave, this will be the year of change for you."
If so, bring it on, Lord, bring it on.
9:10 AM Al Mohler has written a profoundly important essay called Christian Missions in the Third Millennium. There's a trillion quotes I could give you, but here's just one:
So there you have it, folks. The job won't get done by outsourcing missions to paid professionals. All of us are to be involved -- personally. I suspect the devil loves it when we become preoccupied with things other than the Great Commission. This includes our divisions between "red" and "blue" Christians. As long as we are preoccupied with politics, we can't possibly unite together to sacrificially DO something to get the Gospel out to the billions of lost people who are in the world.
How we vote in the next presidential election isn't going to redeem the world. How we live will.
8:50 AM Greetings, comrade in arms in the battle for truth, fellow pilgrims, and co-workers in the kingdom! It's so good to be back. Our trip to Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in North Wilkesboro was fantastic. Nigusse spoke to the Mentoring Class, while I "preached" on the theme of Philippians. Here's the problem. We think we know the theme of a book of the Bible despite the fact that we may have never studied the structure of that book ourselves. To be honest, I've done this tons of times. It just goes to show how important it is that we do our own research rather than relying on others. As an aside, one of the Sunday School classes at Mount Pleasant just finished studying Philippians. It was interesting to hear the varied responses when I asked class members, "So what is the theme of Philippians?" (Yes, I have a very irritating way of asking awkward questions.) Pastor Kevin and I talked about a lot of things at his home. Walk in freedom. Give grace. Be biblical. Let the Spirit move the church along. Don't force doctrine. I shared with Kevin this essay: Is the Problem Calvinism or Fundamentalism (or the Combination)? I'm sure many of you are familiar with Roger Olson. He is arguably the foremost expert on Arminianism today. And I think he is correct when he warns those of us who are in the more Reformed camp to watch what we say. We must never let a theological position become "the joy of our life" or the "source of our life" etc. I couldn't agree more! I can't possibly tell how you how blessed I am to teach in a seminary where our president tells his audiences that as long as he is at the helm, J.C. will stand for Jesus Christ and not John Calvin. What have you replaced the Gospel with in your heart? In my heart? Home schooling, age-integrated ministry, elder-led congregationalism, etc. -- all these can easily become idols unless we are very careful. Of course, I do believe in knowing theology. I do believe we ought to have personal convictions about all these matters. But if I understand Paul correctly, the "only thing that matters" is living in a way required by the Gospel (Phil. 1:27), and that means working together for the Gospel even if that means risking grave dangers. For my two cents, I'd argue that much of the church in America just doesn't get this, even those of us who claim long and loud that our theology is correct.
Incidentally, I found Kevin to be a very stimulating conversation partner. Time and time again we have pondered questions about theology or church life or family matters or exegesis. The man drives me to know Christ better. In fact, this last sentence could almost be the theme of my life right now. I want to explore Christ more and more and give myself to Him in ever-increasing obedience and love. Like Kevin, I have a passion to write books that will make a difference. For example, in my forthcoming Seven Marks of a New Testament Church, I say nothing really new or profound. It is not difficult to understand how a New Testament church is to operate if we keep one eye on Scripture at all times. Then too, Kevin is passionate about missions. "We beg you, as though Christ Himself were here pleading with you, be reconciled to God!" I can't tell you how often I've heard these words come from his mouth. I think it explains why he is on fire. He understands his role as an ambassador of Christ. Global evangelism is the authentic Christian longing. The ministry of reconciliation is at the very heart of the Christian life. Yes, everything is different once Christ is restored to His rightful place in our hearts!
Thank you, Kevin and Pam, for your warm hospitality, and thank you Mount Peasant for the gracious invitation to minister the Word among you yesterday. And to my readers: Jesus came to seek and save the lost. That's our job, too.
Blessings on you all,
1) Nigu speaking about Daniel to the young adults and their mentors.
2) Teaching in the first of two services at Mount Pleasant.
3) Pastor Kevin is taller than I am. Finally, someone I can look up to!
4) Here's proof that Nigusse is getting more than just Chinese food from his dear old dad.
Saturday, February 8
9:04 AM I too have been listening to Becky's talk about Christian finances. It really is good stuff. The principle she draws from 2 Cor. 8-9 is thoroughly scriptural and contemporary: we should please Christ in our finances. That is really all we need to know about Christian finances. We need never be shackled by a legalistic code of conduct. We are simply responsible to a Person, Christ Himself. That's why Becky says that the Christian is never really "free" when it comes to finances. We are always under obligation to listen to the Spirit. When He tells us to give, we do. When He doesn't, we don't. Our motivation is not "be tough and sacrifice for the sake of duty" but the gratitude of those who have been set free from the law.
Think for a moment what that might involve in your life.
8:52 AM In honor of International Septuagint Day, I offer the following fairly simple prose (Joshua 1:1-5) for you to translate. See how well you do without using any helps.
ΚΑΙ ἐγένετο μετὰ τὴν τελευτὴν Μωυσῆ, εἶπε Κύριος τῷ ᾿Ιησοῖ υἱῷ Ναυὴ τῷ ὑπουργῷ Μωυσῆ λέγων· 2 Μωυσῆς ὁ θεράπων μου τετελεύτηκε· νῦν οὖν ἀναστὰς διάβηθι τὸν ᾿Ιορδάνην, σὺ καὶ πᾶς ὁ λαὸς οὗτος εἰς τὴν γῆν, ἣν ἐγὼ δίδωμι αὐτοῖς. 3 πᾶς ὁ τόπος, ἐφ' ὃν ἂν ἐπιβῆτε τῷ ἴχνει τῶν ποδῶν ὑμῶν, ὑμῖν δώσω αὐτόν, ὃν τρόπον εἴρηκα τῷ Μωυσῇ, 4 τὴν ἔρημον καὶ τὸν ᾿Αντιλίβανον ἕως τοῦ ποταμοῦ τοῦ μεγάλου ποταμοῦ Εὐφράτου, καὶ ἕως τῆς θαλάσσης τῆς ἐσχάτης ἀφ' ἡλίου δυσμῶν ἔσται τὰ ὅρια ὑμῶν. 5 οὐκ ἀντιστήσεται ἄνθρωπος κατενώπιον ὑμῶν πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας τῆς ζωῆς σου, καὶ ὥσπερ ἤμην μετὰ Μωυσῆ, οὕτως ἔσομαι καὶ μετὰ σοῦ καὶ οὐκ ἐγκαταλείψω σε, οὐδ' ὑπερόψομαί σε.
Please note the language of verse 5, to which Matthew's Great Commission (28:18-20) clearly alludes. The first person to correctly identify this allusion will receive a free copy of Becky's forthcoming autobiography, My Life Story.
By the way, Chip Hardy, who joins our faulty in the fall, has agreed to co-teach the LXX class with me the next time we offer it. Chip is one smart guy (he's completing his Ph.D. in Northwest Semitic Philology at the University of Chicago). For more on our new faculty members, go here.
8:19 AM So blessed by this testimony:
It goes without saying that Christians will want their whole lives to count for the kingdom. You don't need to have been a Christian more than a few days to begin reevaluating your financial priorities. Jesus is worth it.
Friday, February 7
5:16 PM Well, it's Friday, and I'm sitting here comfortably at the farm computer mulling over the events of the day. I had several meetings on campus, then lunch with Karen, and then I drove Nigusse home. Once again I am completely amazed at the goodness of God. You'll remember that yesterday I posted a link to Becky's lecture on 2 Cor. 8-9. Well, today I received the following email that blew my socks off:
And yes, the quality is much better. My heart is so full. These are all unexpected blessings. God has been simply extravagant with me the past few days. And to think that Becky's book will be released next week.
Can you say "God is good," Dave? God is good.
7:37 AM What can we learn from a formation of flying geese? A great deal, as I try to show in my latest essay, A Fowl Lesson.
Thursday, February 6
5:25 PM Need some exegetical help in Hebrews? Here is an excellent link, though a caveat: Heb 1:1-4 is the first discourse unit of the letter, not 1:1-3.
3:48 PM Here are 10 Pentecostal scholars you will want to be familiar with.
3:40 PM Quote of the day (Craig Blomberg):
3:02 PM Greek students, some of you have asked me when I will offer the LXX course again. I've requested to teach the class in the spring of 2015. As soon as I find out for sure, I'll let you know. You will recall that this is a team-taught course, though neither of my former tag team partners teaches here any more (Drs. Cole and Madden). However, I have no doubt I can finagle one of my other OT colleagues to participate. It is really one of the most enjoyable classes on campus!
12:44 PM Phillip Isham, a former student of mine, sent me a link to a guest lecture that my beloved Becky gave in my New Testament Intro class a couple of years ago. I do believe this is the only audio I have of Becky speaking. Her topic was Christian finances, and her text was 2 Cor. 8-9, which she exegeted beautifully. If you'd like to listen to it, click here. I asked Becky to speak on finances because she once had a very successful career as a financial planner with Waddell and Reed, plus because she was truly a biblical thinker when it came to financial matters.
12:30 PM Eager to resume my international travels this year. In April I'll return to Asia to teach pastors (the first of at least two trips there this year). The topic: "The History and Theology of the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movements." Later I will make my fourth trip to Ukraine to teach hermeneutics at the Odessa Theological Seminary and to do a workshop on Greek pedagogy for the various Greek teachers in the country. Of course, Nigusse is hoping to be married in July in Addis Ababa and has asked me to give his wedding sermon. My plans for returning to India are also shaping up nicely. I need to travel while I'm still able to endure 15-hour flights. (We know we're all getting older, right?) Isn't it great to be part of the kingdom? I am just one tiny little cell in the Body, but I've got a part to play. Cells are born and cells die, but the Body lives on forever!
9:32 AM Have you seen this new report that states that:
What a mess! Our world is in desperate need of Christian marriages that model faithfulness. I want people to see another face of Christianity. How dare we rally against the gay agenda when our own house is in disarray. Somehow we miss the fact that marriage can be a beautiful means of discipleship. This report is disturbing. It should make us uncomfortable. At the same time, I will be the first to say that the only reason I am not divorced is because of the sheer unmerited grace of God. Becky and I were not strangers to difficulties in our marriage. But we stuck it out. Sometimes that's the most important thing you can do in life. Then one day we gave up "Christianity" so that we could follow Christ, and we began to live for something bigger than our marriage. We began to thirst for the kingdom of God. Marriage is not an event but a process, a process of slowly ripping ourselves from the culture all around us. It requires working together and the humility to acknowledge it when you fail. So hang in there, you married couples. The Gospel is good news for troubled marriages but disturbing for people who think they have it all together. No marriage is beyond redemption. This is what an unbelieving world finds unbelievable.
9:02 AM I'm really enjoying Rollin Gram's blog. That's partly because I love missions, and much of what he has to say focuses on that topic. I really resonate with his latest post called Engaging the Bible in Mission Theology Scholarship: A Biblical Theology of Mission or a Missional Biblical Theology? 2. Christopher Wright and a Missional Biblical Hermeneutic. I know, I know. It's a very long title, but the gist of what he says (or at least is hinting at -- he is still processing his thoughts) is that we make a grave mistake when we speak of a "Biblical Theology of Mission." Missions is much more central than that in the Scriptures. A better idea might be to write a "Missional Biblical Theology." I personally think the discussion is very helpful. The Gospel is not the Gospel unless it is central to our theology. This is one reason I've often stated (and even put into print) that we err by having "missions" departments in seminary, as if missions were simply just another division in our curriculum. My conviction is that missions is central for all we do in seminary. In The Purpose of a Seminary I write:
Jesus was all about transforming society, not just through teaching but through scandalous acts of Calvary-love. Not only that, but His last words remind us that we are to collectively and individually imitate Jesus' own self-sacrificial love by going into the world and getting our hands dirty (John 20:21). Think about this: If we set "missions" apart from the rest of our theological disciplines, we are doing exactly the opposite of what the Bible indicates is the true purpose of our role as followers of Jesus. We thus marginalize the discipline as if it were one among equals when it is really primus inter pares. Our focus should always be on what Jesus focused on. The undeniable reality is that missions is often the tail, to the point where we think that being intentional about global missions is only one option among many in our roles as Christian educators. The simple fact is that we've been called by God to follow Jesus Christ into the world, not to follow someone's educational ideas -- however good and wonderful some people may think they are. So while I deeply appreciate and respect all my peers who work in the field of missions and evangelism, I really do wish every department in our seminaries were refocused in a way that emphasized the Great Commission. Maybe it's time "New Testament" became a subsystem of Missions!
More to come ....
8:12 AM Just received a very kind request from Brazil to have my book Paul, Apostle of Weakness translated into Portuguese. If this happens, it will be my second book in that language (POR QUE 4 EVANGELHOS? is already available).
I deeply appreciate the publisher in Sao Paolo contacting me. To translate a work from one language into another requires contacting either the publisher or the author (depending on who owns the rights to the book). Unfortunately, on occasion this protocol has not been followed with certain of my books.
7:48 AM Good morning, thoughtful bloggers! Let's think theology for a moment. Rollin Grams has been discussing leadership of late on his blog, and his recent post called A 'Biblical Theology of Leadership'? was a real eye-opener for me. In his own words:
"Leadership," he argues, is the wrong category. Instead, we need to be talking about "discipleship." I tend to agree. Church history is with filled with various movements, one of the most popular today being the "leadership" fad (there is even a Christian journal by that title). The paradox is that the church is healthiest, I believe, when leaders push themselves into the group and minister "among" the people rather than from a position of authority "over" them (I discuss this topic in my essay Recovering Paul’s Perspective on Pastoral Leadership). As I write in The Jesus Paradigm:
When I was in seminary, it seemed that everybody wanted to become a "leader." But you don't get crucified for being a leader. You get crucified for living a radically different lifestyle than the one the world offers. As I travel internationally, I have been refreshed to see a new awareness of the upside-down nature of Christianity. I see people placing their faith in the scandalous Gospel of grace rather than in the fragile hands of human logic. After all, Jesus was not silent on how "leaders" are to look and act.
If you are a pastor or any kind of Christian "leader," I urge you to read Rollin's essay in its entirety. As an evangelical, the only way I know to get people to grow is to get them to think.
Wednesday, February 5
6:15 PM Neat story on NPR tonight about the way Bill Gates is transitioning into the role of mentor in his company as well as focusing more on his charitable foundation. He seeks to get out of the limelight and ease the transition for the new CEO. At the same time, his philanthropic juices have kicked in as never before. I can identify (to a very small degree). One of my main goals in the next ten years is to step out of the limelight and push my students forward into their roles as teachers and scholars. I also hope to be able to assist students achieve their goals in tangible ways as well. That doesn't mean the transition is easy. Everything in this world tries to pull us away from "stepping down" and pushing others forward. One of the things I think Jesus does with us as we grow older is set us free from the idea that we are indispensable. Ha, that's a funny thought. At my age, mentoring is really where it's at. It is perhaps the most difficult and the most beautiful thing in the world.
1:38 PM Looking ahead this month ...
1) This Sunday I'm speaking at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in North Wilkesboro, NC on the topic "The Only Thing That Matters" (Phil. 1:27-30).
2) Lunch with Danny Akin and Don Carson on campus after Don speaks in chapel on Tuesday, Feb. 11.
3) Taking daughter Karen to the North Carolina Symphony on Friday, Feb. 14.
4) Speaking at all three morning services at Cavalry Chapel in Tustin, California, Sunday Feb. 23, as well showing my pix of Ethiopia in their evening service.
5) Interview in California with Don Stewart on his program Pastor's Perspective on Monday, Feb. 24 at 3:00 pm (PST).
We do indeed worship a God of resurrection, who uses weak but yielded vessels in His amazing kingdom work.
P.S. Below is the slide I'll be showing this Sunday during my message. (I normally don't use Greek slides when I speak, but Sunday will be a major exception!)
Philippians 1:27-30 Analyzed
Μόνον ἀξίως τοῦ εὐαγγελίου τοῦ Χριστοῦ πολιτεύεσθε
ὅτι στήκετε ἐν ἑνὶ πνεύματι
μιᾷ ψυχῇ συναθλοῦντες τῇ πίστει τοῦ εὐαγγελίου
καὶ μὴ πτυρόμενοι ἐν μηδενὶ ὑπὸ τῶν ἀντικειμένων
ὅτι ὑμῖν ἐχαρίσθη τὸ ὑπὲρ Χριστοῦ, οὐ μόνον τὸ εἰς αὐτὸν πιστεύειν ἀλλὰ καὶ τὸ ὑπὲρ αὐτοῦ πάσχειν
Purple = Adverb
Blue = Finite verb
Red = Participle
Green = Infinitive
1:10 PM Thanks to Brian Fulthorp, I now know what I'll be watching before turning in tonight: Craig Keener's lecture Matthew's Missiology, which he delivered yesterday at Beeson Divinity School. Matt. 28:19-20 has got to be one of my favorite texts in all of sacred Scripture.
12:59 PM A reminder to please pray for Josh and Andrea Smith as they face cancer together. What a precious family. What a horrible disease. What a great God we trust in.
12:50 PM This just in:
Folks, I'm serious. You just wait for the YouTube!
12:45 PM For what it's worth, here are my thoughts on the use of one loaf of bread and one cup during the Lord's Supper:
This comes from chapter 5 of my forthcoming book Seven Marks of a New Testament Church. Church history is full of churches trying to adapt the meal to their own needs. And yet there is the constant whisper of the singular loaf and cup.
12:39 PM I'll be visiting the doctor this afternoon to check out what seems to be a case of bronchitis. I don't like going to the doctor's but my daughters are insisting, and I, being the ever-obedient father, am complying :)
12:23 PM Interesting read here: The supposed patristic consensus on Matthean priority. "Unanimous would seem not to be the word that best describes the external evidence," concludes the writer. I have adduced quite a different conclusion based on the external evidence in my book Why Four Gospels? The Historical Origins of the Gospels (now in a second edition). The book is founded on my own translations of the church fathers from the Greek and Latin.
A brief word to my students: Any time we wish to make pronouncements about any kind of evidence, we should be sure that we have examined it firsthand, ourselves. I would encourage all students of the New Testament to translate for themselves the patristic statements, if they have not done so already, and then reach conclusions as to what it says. One simply cannot depend on the major English translations.
10:52 AM Time for "7 things before 70." Here are 7 things I'd like to do before I reach 70 in 9 years.
1) Train pastors in Vietnam.
2) Share the Gospel in Japan.
3) Climb Mount Olomana in Kailua (again).
4) Learn how to cook real Chinese food.
5) Become fluent in Spanish.
6) Publish my own Eugene-Peterson-style translation of the New Testament.
7) Play my ukulele in a Hawaiian praise band.
So with every head bowed and every eye closed, let's get going.
8:50 AM Jesus refused to wear any crown on earth except a crown of thorns. Last night, for the umpteenth time, I offered my loneliness in love to the Lord, who can turn it into something quite different in ways that I cannot understand. Please pray that God would help me to take hold of it with both hands, humbly, submissively, courageously, even defiantly. I miss her so badly. When I said "I do" 37 years ago, there were no footnotes or conditions attached. Marriage required my all, still does. If I had to surrender the right to self then, how much more now? Did I have a warrant to abandon my vows when Becky got ill? Never. Yet who can possibly stand the pain of such loss, let alone the requirements of discipleship? Surely the Lord asks too much. Or does He? With or without Becky, I am called to be faithful, to sacrifice my desires for His. A sacrifice of this magnitude cannot happen only once. It must take place every time I remember her, every time I see her smile in my mind's eye -- a beautiful testimony of God's grace overcoming sickness and despair. Right now, today, when I am feeling so weak and hurt and lonely and abandoned, is an opportunity for me to put my faith into practice. I must press on, because it is in the pressing on that God will plant and nurture the seed of His power and strength. Like C. S. Lewis, I must come to realize that my very agony is the grace of God. Please pray for me, that I might find my fulfillment in Christ, that I would accept His will, that I might accept Becky's death as what Lewis might have called a severe mercy.
But oh, dear God, how I miss her love.
Tuesday, February 4
7:06 PM Evening, folks! As you know, this April the seminary will be hosting a major conference on textual criticism. It's about the famous Pericope Adulterae. Information can be found here. Today Maurice Robinson and I met with the administration to finalize the plans for the conference. I am very much looking forward to this event. It will be yet another chance to reaffirm some old friendships and meet interesting new people. Afterwards I met with a former student who currently serves in the Air Force but this summer will be relocating to Nagaland to serve as a tentmaking missionary.
I really want to see evangelical churches going with the old standard of Paul rather than the new professional model of missions. There are huge ramifications to one's philosophy of missions, that's for sure! Finally, here's hard-working Nigusse spreading mulch on campus today.
Tonight I am really missing Becky. Some cynic might say, "Again?" Yep, about 50 percent of the time. I'm just being down-to-earth. I constantly have to come back to Truth and accept, positively and actively, what is given me. Thanksgiving needs to become the habit of my heart. God has blessed me with many gifts, but especially the gift of Himself -- His presence and His never-failing love in the midst of the pain and the loss. So tonight, again, I am offering up those pains and my broken heart, for the sacrifices of God (I am told) are "a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart." These He will not despise. When the night threatens to last forever, I remember the One who intercedes for me. He is at work, and He will never keep us stumbling in the dark.
8:28 AM In his review of my book Why Four Gospels? for the website Review of Biblical Literature, Leo Percer of Baylor University shows considerable courage in giving credence to my view that our earliest Gospel was Matthew's and not Mark's, as is held by the majority of scholars today.
I say "courageous" because anyone who offers even the slightest challenge to the modern consensus opinio risks being accused of the grossest obscurantism. Percer writes:
However, Percer creates a straw man in arguing that my view of the order of the Synoptic Gospels (which I posit as Matthew-Luke-Mark) ignores the historical evidence, which (in Percer's view) is Matthew-Mark-Luke. This is not at all what I say, however. My view is that there are two apparently conflicting historical understandings of the order of the Synoptic Gospels, what I might call the Clementine view (named after the church father Clement of Alexandria who stated that the Gospels containing genealogies [viz. Matthew and Luke] came first), and the Augustinian view (which represents the canonical order found in most of our Bibles today). As I note on page 43 of my book, it is possible for Mark to be regarded from two different aspects as both the second and the third—third in order of actual composition, but second in order of authority as the work of the apostle Peter. Thus the canonical order of Matthew-Mark-Luke places the works of apostles (Matthew and Mark = Peter) first. In this way, the Gospel of Mark functions as a "canonical bridge" as it were between the church’s earliest Gospel, that of Matthew (written primarily for Jewish Christians), and the next Gospel to be written, that of Luke (written largely for Gentile converts stemming from Paul's missionary efforts in the larger Roman Empire).
Much the same phenomenon occurs with the position of the book of Acts, which is the second volume of Luke's history of the church (Luke-Acts). Why did the church take Acts, which was written before John, and place it after that writing? The reason apparently lies in the desire of the early church to provide an explanation of how the church got from the ministry of Jesus (as portrayed in the Gospel accounts) to the organized ministration as seen in the epistles. Acts alone provides the bridge of understanding between these phases of the development of earliest Christianity.
There is, I submit, sufficient circumstantial evidence for accepting Mark as the last of the Synoptic Gospels to be produced and as the literal transcript of a shorthand record made while Peter was actually delivering his talks in Rome. Subsequently, Peter permitted Mark to make the transcript available to all who asked for it. The fact that Mark never set out to write a Gospel may explain why his work was hardly ever quoted by Christian writers during the next three hundred years.
8:14 AM Quote of the day:
Read Dealing with Disappointment.
7:48 AM I thoroughly enjoy reading bloggers' bios. In that vein, I offer a few personal observations of no lasting importance for your amusement:
1) I was born in 1952 in Hawaii, a product of America's middle class -- George Orwell's "lower-upper-middle class" that was so ubiquitous throughout Hawaii in the second half of the twentieth century.
2) In a plot twist worthy of Evelyn Waugh, the Hawaiian-born surfer ended up living in Southern California for 27 years before becoming a farmer in Virginia.
3) I'm a card-carrying member of the SNTS but rarely have time to attend its meetings (too busy going on mission trips).
4) In my previous life I had an almost comically vast palette of sports and hobbies: surfing, volleyball, basketball, horseback riding. Now I'm too old for such ventures -- almost.
5) I've never had grandiose schemes to become rich and famous.
6) I translated all 27 books of the New Testament from Greek into English for the ISV New Testament. It took me a year of full time work. Nothing will tap you out like translating the Word of God.
7) I write a blog as a kind of daily diary. I also visit other's websites and find enrichment all around -- as Paul put it, "mutually encouraged by each other's faith" (Rom. 1:12).
8) I have a special empathy for doctoral students. Post-graduate studies can be teeth-grindingly hard.
9) I think we have a good deal to learn from the early church. These believers had "been with Jesus" (Acts 4:13), and their transformed lives had made a huge impact on the rest of the world. I believe that we have to go back to the Scriptures if we are to see genuine revival today.
10) I believe that the media holds incalculable potential for good, but I watch very little TV and listen to very little radio. For me, the web is where it's at.
11) Opportunities for me to travel have not been lacking, though I would desperately like to visit Latin America someday.
12) I love classroom teaching. I believe it is the greatest joy in the world. Luke 6:40 is my favorite verse as a teacher. I only wish I could live up to it.
13) I suppose my educational background might seem impressive to some, but my greatest education was not gained from books or lectures but from simply reading the Bible, which speaks volumes to anyone who will study it attentively.
14) I enjoy being in churches where there is a "fellowship of leadership," that is, where the leadership loves and trusts each other. I see so many pastors caught up by status anxiety and bleeding ulcers. I want to see them become more God-dependent, stripped of outward evidence of "success." Effective service for Christ is more a matter of attitude than aptitude. If you've got the disease of carnality, people know it. They can see through our positions, our power, our possessions. Only a broken container lets the radiance of the treasure inside penetrate the darkness. Perhaps Peter had this in mind when he wrote 1 Pet. 4:8-11.
15) My greatest role models were my professors, especially Harry Sturz (Biola) and Bo Reicke (Basel). Not that they practiced a folksy, feet-up style of mentoring. But they were genial and kind-hearted, and (thank God) Prof. Reicke was open to working with American students (the U.S. had not yet begun flexing its muscular unilateralism). By the way, students: you'll find yourself emulating your professors whether you like it or not.
16) I suppose the most crucial aspect of my life is the partnership I enjoyed with Becky Lynn. Like Priscilla and Aquila, we were a team in that we did almost everything together -- a polychrome, if you will, rather than a dull monochrome.
17) Like Saul of Tarsus (who gave up his intellectual arrogance though not his intellectual prowess), I'm a recovering New Testament "scholar." My message is now simply, "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son." I have not always been in the Gospel business, but I am now, to the hilt.
18) One last item. It's okay to call me "Brother Dave." Even Jesus delights in identifying with His followers and does not hesitate to call us "brothers and sisters" (Heb. 2:10-11). So what's our hang-up?
7:36 AM I was asked the other day how I manage to keep up with my languages (Latin, French, German, etc.). The answer? By using them. For example, in John 14:6 Jesus says: "Ego sum via et veritas et vita; nemo venit ad Patrem nisi per me". The alliteration in the Latin "via" (way), "veritas" (truth), and "vita" (life) is breathtaking. How could one not want to read such beautiful prose?
7:32 AM This arrived in my inbox yesterday:
I remember so vividly listening to Becky dictate those chapters to our daughter Karen. God can do anything, I thought to myself. And I am ready to see Him bless this book, written in great weakness. Pray for the book to be used of God. I'm ready to see God do more great things through Becky's life.
7:24 AM As you know, I'm eager to get back into the classroom this year after my sabbatical. I've been revising the syllabus for my New Testament Introduction course. I fear that there is too much stoicheia in our teaching. Paul uses that interesting term in Galatians and Colossians. It originally referred to the letters of the alphabet, and hence the "ABCs" of a subject. Paul condemned the false teachers for claiming advanced knowledge of a very profound kind when in fact their knowledge was extremely rudimentary. Real knowledge is found only in Christ. I sometimes think that the typical fare in New Testament courses -- the Synoptic Problem, textual criticism, historical background, authorship, date, provenance, etc. -- can be taught in such a way that seems very advanced but is really a step backward. We infer, "Scripture is all very well, but it is not enough; we scholars alone have the secret knowledge to understand it, and you must follow what we say." The more scholarly the teacher, the more they must avoid the danger of discouraging their students, for they must always show the relevance of what they are teaching for life and ministry. They cannot say, "I wrote my dissertation on this topic, and it is therefore going to be discussed whether it is relevant to the course or not." Or, "To be an educated person you must understand das Sitz im Leben Jesu and Heilsgeschichte." If we are not very careful, we teachers can easily produce a new generation of Christian Gnostics with their own secrets and passwords and recondite knowledge. We can turn Christianity into a philosophy and destroy the faith we are trying to defend.
It is appalling how often and where this evil business shows up. It is discouraging to find that what a certain teacher said to you is exactly the opposite of what the Bible teaches or else is totally irrelevant. Alas, New Testament scholarship has its impurities and degradations; but it also has its nobilities and excellences, and it is the latter that we must always try to focus on. The apostle Paul is quite clear about this: "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is fair, whatever is pure, whatever is commendable, if there is anything of excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy -- keep your thoughts on these things" (Phil. 4:8). And then our example must back up what we say: "Likewise, what you've learned and received and heard and seen in me -- keep practicing these things" (4:9). As teachers we must be willing, I think, to deny our own ambitions, our own prejudices, anything that centers on ourselves, for the blessing and well-being of the church.
Non scholae sed vitae discimus is the way the Latins put it. "We learn, not for school, but for life." Now that is one pithy slogan that deserves to be practiced.
Monday, February 3
9:46 AM A reader sent this along:
Check it out, and then send the link to all of your football friends.
9:30 AM During the sixty years of life that God gave her, my wife Becky discovered what radical discipleship looked like. What I had been teaching my students, she had been living: putting aside her own pursuits to pursue missions fulltime, loving all people regardless of their nationalities, and not wasting her time on temporal things. The fact is, she drew her conclusions based, not on a seminary education, but on a simple reading of the Gospels. She never confused her allegiance. It belonged to Jesus alone. She left an example of devotion and dedication that left the rest of us breathless just trying to keep up. Becky was no Christian "celebrity." Thank God for that. But her simple life was a testimony to the kind of power that God exhibits. God's power is foolishness to this world, but it reveals the kind of God we can follow with all of our hearts.
On November 2, 2013, I cried out to Jesus in pain and joy while Becky took her last breath. That morning I fell into the arms of a God whose character is unchangeable. I, who had prayed and prayed for a miraculous healing, wept openly. I do not know why Becky suffered and died so young. I do not know why the prayers of so many on her behalf did not prevail. But I do know that because of Jesus, she is in the presence of the One she served so faithfully, and that I will see her again. So today, instead of wasting my energy trying to figure God out, I am called upon to use my energies to be generous to those who are around me, spreading the Calvary-like love of Christ. Dearest Becky, this is my pledge to you: to live like you lived, a life that loved sacrificially, until together we celebrate the ultimate victory.
Friends, every good act of giving and every perfect gift comes from God. This includes Becky's autobiography, My Life Story, which is now available for pre-sale at the Energion website.
An infinitely wise God allowed my wife to complete it before she went Home to be with Him. If you are still grieving Becky's death, this book will encourage you. If you need a swift kick in the pants to jumpstart your Christianity, this book will help you. And remember: God's presence never leaves us. It envelops us and fills us to overflowing. And one day we will all be together and hold His hand and give praise for all eternity to the God who is good and whose love was perfectly portrayed on the cross and (less perfectly) in the lives of His children, including Becky Lynn Lapsley Black. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Sunday, February 2
5:32 PM Thanks to the recommendation of Karen, today I watched The Pianist on Netflix. It stars Adrien Brody (Best Actor in 2002) as Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Polish Jew who survived the German occupation of Warsaw.
At my age, it's easy to live with a sense of entitlement. Aging baby-boomers like myself may be tempted to think, "I've paid my dues. I've served Jesus faithfully for many years. It's time to be served. It's time for life to be easy. I have the right to comfort, respect, and appreciation." The older I get, the more I'm finding it's necessary to re-examine my perspective on living. Like all sinners, I suffer from spiritual myopia. With a humble dependency on God, I need to expose the critical issues of my heart to the pure light of God's Word. Our identity as Christians is not rooted in our performance. It is rooted in the Gospel. We are called to be faithful servants no matter what the outcome. In the end, because Christ is the source of my identity, I need not allow respect, comfort, or appreciation to rule my heart. I can glory in the knowledge that in every trial of life God has a greater agenda than my personal comfort.
2:18 PM Someone just published "A Minister's Prayer." The "minister," of course, is a pastor. What our Lord is seeking to teach us is quite different, I think. His strategy is not to change the world through a select group of ordained "ministers" but through every member of His body exercising their gifts. When you commit yourself to Jesus in a personal way, you become His servant, His "minister" if you will. No barriers of race, class, educational attainment, sex, or age. Even though I am just a Greek teacher, I am in "fulltime Christian ministry," as are you. Christian ministry, then, is no option for those who like that sort of thing. It is absolutely essential for every obedient follower of the Lord Jesus. It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of this. Call your leader "pastor" or "elder" or "overseer," yes, but please, please, do not call him "minister." If you are not personally involved in fulltime Christian ministry, then the whole family is impoverished and weakened.
2:08 PM I love this attitude:
Read Ten Questions About Super Bowl Weekend At NewSpring Church.
Folks, if we're going to reach a lost world for Jesus, we need to listen to the culture around us. The church exists for evangelism. The gathering exists for the going. Many churches see themselves as having chiefly a pastoral or prophetic role. Yet something needs to be added to the equation, not to displace it but to supplement it. Effective evangelism is nothing but the logical continuation of these other roles. Start where people are. Then build Gospel bridges. Super Bowl Parties can create a favorable climate for faith. People may not read the books you give them or respond to your invitation to come to church. Friendship is often the only way in.
Kudos to NewSpring Church. Evangelism must be integrated into the teaching and other ministries of our churches. How's your church doing? How's mine?
1:50 PM Read The Snack We Call Supper. Today at The Hill we had a family meal during which we celebrated the Lord's Supper. It wasn't just a snack but part of a full dinner. The atmosphere, far from being funereal (with holy ordinands in white gloves serving the elements), was that of a joyful wedding. And why not? What fellowship! What unity! What a focus on Christ (not a pastor)!
What a tremendous blessing to be part of a local church that is committed to Scripture.
10:02 AM Last night, again, I wept over Becky. Her death is still too deep and too high for me to fathom. Why did God entrust this mystery -- to me? Does He not know that men bear life's tragedies less ably than women do? Then, this morning, I greeted the dogs in the kitchen. I realized that they have been with me during Becky's illness and death, from day one. Are they my "wild beasts" in the wilderness that came and ministered to me? Is this the true meaning of Mark 1:13? I used to think that Mark mentioned the wild beasts of Jesus' temptation because he wanted to show that Jesus faced dangers. But there is another possibility. Perhaps, like the angels, they too ministered to Him. My dogs trust me to take good care of them. They have no worries whatsoever. And nothing happens to them apart from my notice. How much more valuable am I to God! My dogs delight to do my will. They are my constant companions. Is there not a spiritual lesson here for me to learn?
Thanks be to God for pets.
9:40 AM Now this looks like an interesting read: The Earliest Christian Meeting Places. Almost Exclusively Houses? The publisher's blurb reads as follows (in part):
I found the link over at Mark Goodacre's always thought-provoking site. I will order the book for our seminary library since yours truly has much more important things to spend his money on. (The tome sells for "only" $110.00.)
9:17 AM Today I feel like a kid on Christmas eve night. Becky's autobiography will be announced tomorrow at the publisher's website. Quite a date, eh? I ponder the undeniable fact that I am the most blessed man on planet earth.
You should see the cover. You will see the cover -- tomorrow!
9:05 AM Are your planning on taking your congregation through a study of the book of Revelation? If so, here is some good advice from Henry Neufeld about teaching a series on that book:
Of course, his last point is the most important one.
8:56 AM I see that I'm not the only fossil who still surfs.
Saturday, February 1
12:53 PM Karen is in the kitchen cooking cheese and broccoli soup for lunch. Life don't get any better!
12:45 PM Just received a newsletter from an old friend whom I got to know in Europe, George Winston. I see that he's got a fabulous site in French with several essays on the Scriptures. Check it out here.
Here's a sample: Les dons de l’Esprit (Ni “charismanie” ni “charisphobie”).
10:18 AM Quote of the day:
Read Hebrews: Who is the Author?
I quite agree :)
10:02 AM There are two new posts about the Pauline authorship of Hebrews:
Let the discussion/debate continue!
8:46 AM Today I was perusing the Global Orphan Project website. Seems one of the U.S.-based staff has just returned from a trip to Ethiopia. (For his exciting report, go here.) My erudite readership knows how I feel about U.S.-based ministries. I wish each and every one of them would come clean as to exactly how much of the money they receive goes to overhead and administrative costs. Well, thank God, here's an organization that does just that. And it gets even better. Read this and you will see what I mean. I love it. The title is "Understanding Our 100% Commitment." Every penny goes to the field. Not a dime stays in the U.S. for staff or operating expenses. Those needs are met by other income sources. I applaud this ministry. I wish there were many more like it. Since the beginning, Becky and I have been fully self-supporting in our work in Ethiopia. Every penny we receive goes to the needs there, and we cover our own operating expenses, from postage to airfare. Always have, always will.
I have said it before: If you are the CEO of an NGO, I don't really care if your salary in $250,000 a year. Just please, please do not take a penny of it from the freewill contributions of others. Raise it yourself. It can be done. It has been done.
P.S. Here's a document from the Charity Navigator website that you will find interesting to say the least: 2013 CEO Compensation Study.
7:52 AM Hello blogging world. Thanks for tuning in. Here are a few odds and ends on this first day of February:
1) As Thomas noted, Energion Publications has just announced the soon release of my Greek grammar in Spanish. As far as I know, this is a new venture for Energion. I want to personally thank Henry Neufeld for being willing to make this tool available to the millions of Spanish speakers worldwide, and at a price people can afford (details to come, but the price will both surprise and delight you).
2) I would appreciate your continued prayers for me and my family as we adjust to the Homegoing of Becky. Your prayers throughout this entire journey have meant so much to us, far more than you could possibly know. From the beginning, we determined that our M. O. would be to remain unshaken in our faith and confidence in the steadfast love and never-changing faithfulness of our God. As we move on from here, we are placing no limits on what He can do, though we are prepared to receive from His hand whatever good -- and whatever challenges -- His perfect and gracious will entails. Thank you so much for your prayers and friendship. Please don't stop now.
3) I'm still spending much of my time working on my book Seven Marks of a New Testament Church. I need to complete the project this month. It has been nothing but sheer joy to work on this study of the book of Acts. I argue that the best books on church life are those that are text-based and not grounded on our own thoughts about church.
4) Nigusse finished his first complete week of work. I'm so proud of him! One morning he and the grounds crew began work at 4:00 a.m. spreading salt and clearing sidewalks on campus in freezing temps. Ah, Nigusse, the Alpha Mensch.
5) I am still dealing with several tricky marriage relationships that need healing. How can we live hopefully in a world that is so broken? We can't expect the basic nature of human sinfulness to change. We don't expect that suffering will be erased or eradicated this side of heaven. But we know that God's ultimate victory is certain, and so we plow ahead, both patiently and confidently, motivated by Christian hope. It seems that the topic of depression comes up a lot when I am speaking with Christians. I prayed today for a friend whose son is suffering from long-lasting depression. The awesome power of God is astounding. Which makes things all the harder when He doesn't intervene immediately. But we need to be there to support one another, no matter what the difficulty might be. To follow Jesus means to care. Period. We cannot evade our responsibility by just talking. Blessings on you as you wage the war of compassion against all that opposes it!
Friday, January 31
7:06 PM Let's see: a long but good day today. Karen and I went to a local Mexican eatery for lunch and experienced a first: made-at-your-table guacamole.
Deeelicious! Our server was from Guadalajara. It was so neat to see Karen and this lady rattling off in Spanish. Me? I have to think it in English first, then translate it, and more often than not what comes out of my mouth is Amharic or German instead of Spanish. Oh well. I try. Makes my want to go back to school and take a course in that language.
Let me add that I just got the news that a prisoner in Ethiopia whom I had been sharing the love of Jesus with has passed away. He apparently entered a Christless eternity. The thing is, I felt he was so close. This too calls for trust. Sometimes people say no. People you dearly love. People you would give your right hand to see saved. I'm not going to lie to you -- it's tough when something like this happens. But, oh, thank God that He is my cover, and because I have Him, I have enough.
9:10 AM Here's some really good news about our forthcoming Greek grammar in Spanish. My thanks to Thomas and his team for their outstanding work on this project. It is nearing completion!
8:56 AM Two good reads here:
Let every person be convinced in his or her own mind!
8:16 AM Quote of the day:
Read: Calling the Next Gen to the Next Level: Jim Elliot. Thank you, Alvin, for this wonderful piece.
8:08 AM Today is Chinese New Year. To all my Chinese-American friends in Hawaii, Gong Hey Fat Choy!
8:03 AM I am sometimes asked what I think my most important work is. If humble, every-member ministry and a passionate love for the lost of all races is implemented in our churches, I should consider my support of it my most important work. If not, Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek will not be able to enlighten anyone.
7:56 AM Get it?
7:13 AM Talk about an ambiguous headline: Hawaii says aloha to same-sex marriage. I first read it as "Hawaii says goodbye to same-sex marriage," but of course the opposite is true. "Aloha" has several meanings: Hello, goodbye, love, etc. Only the context can clarify its meaning whenever the word occurs. This is called polysemy, and it occurs in New Testament Greek too (and in every language, for that matter). Anothen is a good example ("born again" or "born from above"?). Speaking of Hawaii, did you hear about the recent snowstorm it experienced? I'm not kidding. What an amazing world we live in.
6:04 AM Read 9 Reasons Why Today's Books On Christian Living Are Terrible.
5:54 AM A week ago today I was sharing about missions in Hawaii. And about having a Great Commission Marriage. Whenever I speak on this subject I can see mouths opening in gaping astonishment, as if to say, "What in the world is he talking about?" Personally I believe that a great deal of marital unhappiness is brought on by a plethora of marriage enrichment seminars and aggravated by spiritual quick fixes (like drugs) used in trying to alleviate the symptoms. I enjoyed married life for 37 years, but our greatest desire as a couple was to further God's kingdom as "partners in the Gospel" (Phil. 1:5). The resultant blessedness was incomparable. If you've never experienced a Great Commission Marriage, it's not too late to give it a try.
I want to confess that I struggle with speaking about the subject of marriage. I see all too often how the results of marriage seminars, if any, are short-lived. I've seen how there are no shortcuts, no gimmicks, no single method to cultivate an intimacy with your spouse. Seminars are so often considered a magical breakthrough. They are not. The fact is, we are trying harder and only getting wearier, especially when we rely on a handful of "experts" in the faith. Let's face it, that is the nature of a seminar or a lecture. Not that it is wrong for faith to express itself in occasional explosions of joy or passion. But when it comes to Christian maturity, only a few things really matter, perhaps only three: being Christ-centered, being Scripture-driven, and being grace-based. I guess I try hard in every message to steer the church in that direction through very simple Bible teaching that focuses on Christ and His love. It is refreshing and salutary to know that these emphases do not have to stop once the meetings have concluded. Jesus and Jesus alone is the solution to our spiritual dullness. He and He alone can replace our self-doubt and negativism with holy confidence. He provides the passion to finish the course and to win the race. The church constructs its places of amusement and entertainment, its places of "revival" even, but any church that is worth its salt will keep pointing others to Jesus and to Him only.
Let's keep centered in the Lamb.
P.S. I want to thank all the "affirmers" who regularly write. You are God's special gift to me. You inspirit me as I seek to live out my calling. I especially covet your prayers. Prayer provides a strong protective curtain about the one who is engaging in spiritual warfare.
Thursday, January 30
6:56 PM Read The Beauty of Slowness.
6:52 PM Which academic journals are accessible online? Paul Himes has the answer.
6:36 PM Let's hear it for Chick-fil-A for helping out stranded motorists in Alabama. Story here.
2:42 PM It's so cold that:
2:32 PM I've been reading 1 Corinthians 7 lately. Lots of good advice for singles (like me!). Here's my favorite section (in Hawaiian Pidgin):
That is so good!
2:18 PM My colleague Ben Merkle answers the question Why elders?
10:58 AM The dogs and I just fed the goats, cattle, and donkeys. Otherwise the dogs have been staying indoors with me.
The weather is warming up to a high of 34 today. This week saw record-breaking lows in the Piedmont. It was only 7 degrees at 5:00 am this morning in Raleigh, tying a record set in 1977. Dog owners, it is just plain cruel to leave your pets outdoors in this weather. The cold can threaten their lives, even long-haired breeds. Be sure they are warm and dry during the winter, and never leave them in a locked car during the summer heat.
10:26 AM This came in the mail while I was gone. The author even inscribed it for me. (Thank you, Thomas!)
Will make the perfect read on a cold day.
10:18 AM In every area of feuding-style disagreements among biblical scholars, "my" side is usually assumed to be wiser than my opponents' side. That's why balanced essays like this one by Henry Neufeld are needed today: On Prettying-Up the Bible. Henry raises some good questions about the use of inclusive language in translation. It seems to me that "brothers and sisters" for adelphoi is just fine as long as that is the meaning intended by the original author (and in many cases, it is). As for the books I write, I have begun using inclusive language pretty regularly -- not because my publishers require me to do so, but because I feel it's the right thing to do in view of my audience. But this can and must be an author's decision. In fact, one publisher I used in the past has begun requiring its authors to use inclusive language. That's just wrong, and I have not published anything with that publisher since. At any rate, read Henry's fine essay if you can.
Be a unifier,
8:06 AM Good morning, peeps. As I said yesterday, my time in Hawaii was wonderful. It felt great to be back with ohana (family). What makes Hawaii so unique? Why do I love it so much?
1) Hawaii is the most ethnically-diverse state in the Union. It has no ethnic majority. A quarter of the population is multi-ethnic. Felix (whom I mentioned yesterday) is Filipino-Chinese, while Charles is half Hawaiian. Throw in other Pacific Islanders (Tahitians, Samoans) and it makes for quite a delightful mix. 39 percent of the population is Asian, so it is not uncommon to find at least some mixture of Japanese and Chinese. Growing up on Kaha Place in Kailua I was a Caucasian in a sea of Koreans, Chinese, and Japanese. Quite a mixture, eh? Wonderful. And the best part about it is the diversity you see in the churches.
2) Hawaii has the best surf in the world. Sure, I surfed in California too. But it's all contrast, not comparison. Did you know that the first recorded account of surfing was penned in 1779 by a crew member aboard one of Captain James Cook's ships? His diary included a description of local people climbing onto boards in the water to wait for "the greatest Swell that sets on shore, & altogether push forward with their Arms to keep on its top." In Hawaii, you literally grow up on a surfboard. My first board was actually made out of koa wood. It took two of us to carry it to the beach. Then foam came along and life got a lot easier. This past week I loved watching the tourists taking surfing lessons on Waikiki Beach. The thrill of standing up on a wave for the first time is indescribable.
3) Hawaii is the most isolated population center in the world. It is situated 2,390 miles from the U.S. mainland and 4,000 miles from Japan. Some hate this fact. They feel trapped and get "island fever." To be honest, I can feel this way sometimes. That's why a lot of us kids who were raised in Hawaii ended up living on the mainland. I guess I would put it this way: The only way you can survive in the islands is if you really love the ocean. Which I do.
4) Hawaiian "time" is great. It simply doesn't exist. I can go for that. The famous "shaka" hand sign basically means "Hang loose!"
5) The Hawaiian language is absolutely beautiful. It has only 12 letters. Google even has a Hawaiian version. You haven't lived until you've heard live Hawaiian music on Waikiki Beach.
6) You can drive on an interstate highway (like H-3) even when it's not interstate.
7) Hawaii has the best coffee in the world (Kona) as as well as my favorite nut (the Macadamia).
8) Finally, Hawaii is known for producing such famous people as these two tricycle riders:
P.S. If you ever do vacation in Waikiki, the price of a meal can be outrageous. My first breakfast at the Royal Hawaiian was delicious but it cost me $40.00. Then I got smart. A short walk to Kuhio Avenue lets you eat breakfast starting at only $3.99 (bacon, scrambled eggs, two pancakes). So save some money. That way you'll have some leftover cash for shave ice -- and a surfing lesson.
Wednesday, January 29
5:20 PM This gorgeous picture of the campus was just posted on Twitter.
Sorry students, you're not getting a snow day today, even though you probably feel like you deserve one!
4:53 PM Nigusse is now a proud member of the seminary grounds crew. He works 20 hours a week. He especially loves working outdoors in the snow and frozen tundra (*wink*).
3:35 PM Yesterday and today were so strange, so full of contrasts. Yesterday I was enjoying Hawaiian food on Oahu and 78 degree temps. Today I drove back to the farm on frozen roads. There is something so incredibly wonderful about watching God's creation in all of its glory and contrast. I think I see a parallel of sorts in my own life. There I was, in Hawaii celebrating love. But not just that. I was also griefing the loss of love. Will it surprise you to hear that I still flit from emotion to emotion? There is so much I could say about this trip, and words feel so inadequate. Maybe I should just quote to you the email I sent out yesterday. It pretty much tells it all.
My heart sings, because God accomplished on this trip more than I ever could have imagined. I feel like a kid who just woke up to find a birthday card in the mail with some spending money. And I plan to spend it wisely!
Did I surf? Nope. The beaches on the North Shore were all closed because of the huge waves, and the beaches on the South Shore (Ala Moana, Waikiki, Queens, Diamond Head) were turned into useless mush by the freak presence of rare Kona winds. Surfing's for next time. Except next time, Hawaii won't feel so strange. It may even feel like home again.
I think I'm at the beginning of a long road, and somehow, in the background, I can see God smiling.
1) The Pink Lady herself. The Royal Hawaiian is nothing if not royal.
2) The view from my room.
3) My hosts: Felix and Karen Tan. Felix is one of 6 pastors at Calvary Chapel West Oahu.
4) Sharing about missions at the Tans' lovely home in Ewa Beach on Friday night.
5) Sharing the Word on Sunday morning at CCWO ...
6) ... where Charles Couch is lead pastor.
7) Enjoying authentic Hawaiian food at the famous Highway Inn in Waipahu.
8) One night, while listening to live Hawaiian music on Waikiki Beach and watching a hula dancer interpreting the songs, requests were invited. I asked for "I'll Remember You." You can Google this Hawaiian song if you're unfamiliar with it. I watched it through tears of joy as I remembered the 40 years Becky and I were privileged to share together.
It would seem that God was not joking when He said He would bring peace and purpose out of loss. All I know is that His compassion never runs dry.
Now if you'll excuse me, this local boy needs to brave sub-freezing temps to feed the animals :)
Thursday, January 23
4:16 AM Good morning, thoughtful blogging buds.
I'll start by saying I'm delighted to be flying to Honolulu via Los Angeles today. Moving on. Closing up. Or something like that. It's all very complex and ambiguous, this post-death process. I read somewhere that it normally takes two years to recover from a natural death in a family. Quite a factlet, eh? Knowing this doesn't make it any easier, of course. I'm a complete novice at this business. Walking through the valley of grief is a journey that was imposed on me. But grief is a great teacher. I think I've grown in my faith more in the past 6 months than in the past 10 years put together. Grief, I'm discovering, is God's gift to mankind to help us work through the pain of loss. Going to Hawaii is, I suppose, just another step in this process for me. I still cry from time to time. The pain seems unrelenting at times. Yet at the same time there has been healing. I'm finally getting some sleep again. I've jump-started activities that I had been putting on hold. The fatigue has begun to lift a bit. I'm beginning to experience life again. The pain is slowly subsiding. I have found a new depth in my relationship with the Lord. The task before me, as I currently see it, is to begin to construct a new life for myself while building memories of my past life with Becky. Hence this little jaunt to the Islands. I suppose it's my way of saying "goodbye" to her for the millionth time. Of imagining Becky in the presence of the Savior. Of experiencing the joy of knowing that she is pain free. Of inviting Becky back into my life through the magic eyes of memory. Easy? No. Necessary? Yes. I'm ready to go there again in my mind -- to the places where Becky and I enjoyed so many happy moments together. I'm ready for Jesus to create small vignettes in my mind and then weave them together into a more complete story. Faith means clinging to God in the midst of the stormy waves. It's clinging to the One who in the Garden of Gethsemane said, "My soul is very sad and deeply grieved, so that I am almost dying of sorrow." Then He used his grief creatively, turning it into something good.
I look forward to the day when Becky and I will embrace again as we celebrate the goodness of the God who conquers sin and death and heals all wounds. Somehow I sense she is with me on this zany 6-day adventure of mine. Thank you, dear readers, for putting up with me and my confused ponderings. Yall are the best. I think the greatest proof that God exists is the ability He gives grieving mothers and fathers and husbands and wives and sons and daughters to cope with the loss of a loved one. Whatever evil the enemy may inflict on us, the greater evil is allowing ourselves to wallow in self-pity, ignoring the Man of Sorrows who is eager to walk with us through the valley of death. This, after all, is what Jesus Himself refused to do.
Blessings on all of you. Remember that life is short. Remember, too, to let your family know how much you love them while you still can.
Mahalo and aloha,
Wednesday, January 22
9:17 AM Okay, so here are a few of the places I'm planning on (re)visiting on Oahu. Being the mature, God-loving, and non-whining individual that I am, I will only post three pix. Remembering is a vital part of life. So is moving on. Can one do both at the same time? We'll soon find out!
P.S. Ain't my Becky a beaut?
8:06 AM I quite agree: All authors should have a blog.
7:33 AM There's a problem when social media keeps you from actually being social.
6:46 AM Hi bloggers and bloggerettes,
Well, we've gotten our first snowfall of the year and it sure looks pretty, though I'm not looking forward to driving in it to campus today. Nigusse begins his final semester and I am meeting up with two of my doctoral students. I also plan on writing another few pages of my book Godworld. Right now I am wrestling with the issue of the depiction of God as violent in the Old Testament. I'll let you know how it goes. Meanwhile, this morning a good friend sent me a link to this report about the huge waves in Hawaii, along with the following (snide) remark, "Don't try to hang ten on those." Aren't my friends terribly mean to me? Of course, everyone knows that I leave tomorrow for Oahu to celebrate my marriage. Becky's love for me was a constant source of encouragement and strength. I can't believe how many years God gave us together, the ministry we enjoyed together, and the process of aging we were privileged to experience together in her last years. It is awesome to realize that this unbelievably difficult and even "impossible" thing we call marriage is actually a symbol of the beautiful marriage between God and us. Only when seen from God's perspective does marriage make any sense.
At any rate, it's meetings on campus today, then lunch with a brother in Wake Forest, coffee with one of my daughters, and dinner in Roxboro with a friend. Hope I have time to pack my bags! I leave on this trip feeling a bit rundown, so I certainly wouldn't mind any "hope-he-feels-better-soon" prayers you'd shoot up on my behalf.
Finally, I am really grateful for the news that my colleague Joshua Waggener has finished his Ph.D. at the University of Durham in the U.K. That's really quite an accomplishment, especially when you're teaching fulltime and raising a family.
Live in love,
September October 2011 Blog Archives