Tuesday, October 25
8:45 AM Mike Glenn writes:
This from my essay What Does a New Testament Church Look Like? Read the New Testament and Jesus will upset your comfortable Christianity. The new generation is on the right track, folks. They are done with spectatorism. They care about the right things. Their actions are beginning to align with the Scriptures.
Come, Lord Jesus. We are Yours. Use us as You wish. You have given each of us gifts of grace. Have your way with us, especially with the new generation.
Monday, October 24
7:12 PM Love our hay.
We serve up great quality, high nutrient bales. Perfect for horses, donks, and goats.
Green Acres is the life for me!
4:32 PM I just finished reading The Greek Verb Revisited from cover to cover. The book gives lengthy explanations and examples, so be sure to pace yourself. It's a difficult book to review and I don't intend to write one. In my opinion, the book is not nearly as eye-opening as the endorsements would seem to imply. Overall, I think it does a pretty good job of explicating where things stand today in terms of New Testament Greek linguistics. But a streamlined and accessible overview of a very complicated subject it is not. Here's a sample:
I have to agree with contributor Buist Fanning of Dallas Seminary, who writes (p. 11), "Please! Pick up a hammer and chisel and work away at this -- with my blessings and gratitude." Kudos are rightly given to James Barr's Semantics of Biblical Language, which is perhaps the most seminal work in the field even today. Among the conclusions this book reaches: verbal aspect is central to our understanding of the Greek of the New Testament; in the non-indicative moods, the so-called "tenses" do not encode tense at all but rather aspect; and there exists no consensus among New Testament scholars as to what is actually meant by "aspect." Most interesting to me was the fact that Randall Buth defends, not two aspects in Koine Greek, but three, which he calls "perfective," "imperfective," and "perfect." I tend to agree, although I would stick with the traditional nomenclature (I still call today's "perfective" aspect "aoristic aspect"). But the real problem with this book is that it is too stodgy for my tastes. It's almost impossible to read it without losing one's way. On the other hand, as an amateur linguist, I appreciate what the editors were trying to do: bring the field up-to-date. In this, they have largely succeeded. Linguistics is a vitally important field of study. When it comes to language, I am neither a purist nor a prescriptionist. But pedantry is not very helpful. It's abundantly clear that New Testament scholars are still divided on many of the issues discussed in this book. One such area is pedagogy, with Buth arguing that "learning Greek to second-language fluency must also become part of the wider academia if we value true access to the original languages" (p. 428). I would heartily agree with his assessment on one condition: I would personally work very hard at speaking Koine Greek if I could find one native speaker. But I think Buth's overall point is a valid one: Greek must be internalized to a certain degree if we are to interpret the New Testament correctly. I'm thankful for the contribution this work makes to New Testament Greek linguistics. But it will probably take others to produce an updated overview to the field that is not disjointed, uneven, and at times confusing.
11:58 AM Perfect day for riding. I'm filing this under #PeekAboo.
8:30 AM Goin' on a "Bike Ride."
Sunday, October 23
9:32 PM "Why me, God?" I asked myself this question as I waited for my luggage at the baggage carousel tonight at RDU. "Why me, God?"
"Why do I have such good health when so many suffer?"
"Why do I have the ability to walk, drive, talk?"
"Why have You blessed me financially?"
"Why are You so good to me?"
"What have I done to deserve this?"
I pondered these questions as tears began to roll down my cheeks. There at the carousel was a man half my age with two crippled legs. As he walked, he drifted from side to side like a drunken sailor. "Lord, forgive me for taking my health for granted!" Last night at the banquet, a young man with autism was there helping and serving, doing menial tasks with a gignormous smile on his face. "Lord, if only I could serve You with half that amount of joy!" Once again, people are changing my heart in ways I haven't started to understand yet. "Why me, God?" I have no answers. I am torn. So much of what I do is a pure, unadulterated, undeserved blessing. There's something so wonderful about watching people who have been wounded live as though they didn't have a care in the world. It defies my efforts to describe it. "Why me, God?" And then His voice speaks in my silence: I knit you together in your mother's womb. Every moment of your life I have planned. I know every feeling, every hair on your head, every sorrow. Chose to believe in Me despite all the evidence to the contrary. Be grateful and joyful. Yes, I have blessed you. Abundantly. And because of who I am, you can rise above living as a mere victim. You can transcend your circumstances. You can overcome evil with good. So ... keep on walking and driving and talking. It is I who have given you these gifts.
Tonight I am overcome by the goodness of God. Life is too wonderful to me. And all of it is so ... undeserved. "Who am I?" asked Bonhoeffer. "They mock me, these lonely questions of mine. Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am Thine!"
1) Brother Jamie's been here 7 years. I'm blessed to know such a wonderful shepherd.
2) Church leaders.
Jamie is second from left. Dave (second from right and recently widowed) graciously opened his home to me.
3) Ladies at our banquet last night.
4) Jamie addressing the folks after I spoke. All of them widowed.
5) Love this young man. What a blessing to the body of Christ!
Saturday, October 22
6:45 AM "Be of good cheer. It is I. Don't be afraid" (Matt. 14:27). Troubled in spirit? No need to deny the existence of evil and sin and death and loss and sorrow. Our Lord recognized all these and more. He met the sorrows of life not with a things-will-get-better-someday philosophy. He met them with Himself. "It is I." Trouble is a reality, but we can be of good cheer because He has overcome everything the world can throw at us. That, in essence, will be my message tonight. He makes the difference.
Off and running!
Friday, October 21
7:44 PM #HappyGranddad.
4:58 PM Now that I'm an expert mountaineer (thanks for playing along), I've begun to use plenty of climbing metaphors in my writing. God wants us to be victorious as we face our "mountains" in life. And He uses the "climb" to display His marvelous grace. I've had to learn this truth the hard way. But true it is: We never climb alone.
"But," you say, "you climbed the Rockies by yourself, didn't you? How wise was that?" Okay. You've got me there. When climbing a 14,000 foot mountain it's probably helpful to have a companion, especially if he or she is more experienced than you are. Here's my mountain guide in Switzerland.
He was constantly encouraging me and summoning me toward the top. The Alps are steep. You don't want to climb them alone. In Colorado, however, I had no climbing companion, no guide, no one to call back to me to encourage me to keep climbing. I wish I had, but some climbs you simply have to make by yourself. When I arrived in Denver I had two options. I could stay in the foothills and stare up at the mountains wondering what it would be like to climb them. Or I could gear up and start the ascent. But here's the deal. Even though I was climbing by myself, I was never alone. God was there, supporting me. Likewise, since Becky's death I've been on a solitary journey. To be sure, family and friends provide constant encouragement, but the mountain of widowerhood is a heavy burden of pain that you can't share with others. I'm in a place I've never been before, clinging to total reliance on God even when no one else, not even those who are closest to me, understands. To shift the metaphor a bit: losing a spouse is like a heavy backpack that makes the climb seem steeper and more difficult. In that case, I guess you just keep climbing! Nowadays my adjustment and healing process continues. My emotions are definitely scarred. My life has been drastically altered. But I continue to heal daily. I have a new mountain to climb -- a "new normal" -- but that doesn't mean I curl up into a little ball. I'm very busy with my students and my family and love to serve others. It's not only when we're young that God can use us. Even in sickness and weakness we can honor God by using our skills. God's obviously not finished with me yet. He is making me whole again. I love that. I know that all the battles I face have a divine purpose. So I face my mountains one day at a time and keep on climbing so that perhaps God will be glorified and others will feel encouraged to keep climbing when their own mountains get steep.
I remember as a child looking at pictures of the Alps and never imagining that one day I would climb one. I could only dream about the sense of accomplishment that represented. Now that God has allowed me to make a few summits, I know that the harder the climb, the more He is there. "The Lord stood at my side and gave me strength" (2 Tim. 4:17). Even when you feel like you can't take another step, even when it seems like there is no end in sight, even when it doesn't seem like you're moving, His plan is still taking shape.
I know all of this sounds ridiculously simplistic, my friend. I have no earthly idea just how difficult your climb is. But I do know that God will always give the needed strength to climb. There's no better Guide than He. Let's allow Him to be our companion on the mountain. And when the trail is especially rocky and steep, let's hold His hand more tightly than ever.
3:10 PM This and that ...
1) Read Why weight loss requires strength training, even in women and seniors. (Warning: hobby horse.) Come near, guys and gals: Diets don't work. People on diets may lose weight, but most of this weight will be water and muscle tissue. Not fat. That's why I'm a proponent of weight training. Before I began lifting, I weighed 245 pounds. Now I'm a steady 210. You see, I wasn't overweight. I was overfat. The problem with most diets is that they cause you to lose the most energy-hungry tissues in the body: your muscles. Weight training causes you to increase them. It's that simple. I'm not against all diets. But they're not the answer. Dieting may allow you to win a few battles but you'll lose the war. A person doing 30 minutes of muscular activity 3 times a week will inevitably become fit. The simplest way to preserve your health is to exercise. Exercise = health. Period. Yes, most of us need to do a better job of watching what we put into our mouths. But we don't need new "diets" to become fit and healthy. What is needed is already known. I'm not as fit as I want to be, but I'm trying -- and that's what makes the difference.
2) These books came via FedEx today from Amazon.
Louw's Semantics of New Testament Greek is a replacement copy. (I loaned out my copy and never got it back.) Louw's book literally changed my life when I first read it back in the early 1980s. The moment I finished reading it I became a huge fan of linguistics. Anyone who can read and understand basic New Testament Greek should invest some time with this book. Despite its small size (only 166 pages), Louw packs more helpful information into less space than you can imagine. I just wish other books on New Testament linguistics would recognize this. This easily belongs in the Must Read list for pastors. Louw uses short but rich sentences. He puts a lot of the more jumbled and less eloquently expressed phrases of the experts into digestible chunks. Today, some 34 years after its initial publication, it's still timely, thorough, and practical. I appreciate Louw's logical ways of approaching the subject, drawing on tangible examples from the New Testament to explain obtuse ideas. But what I love best about this book is a trait that's sorely lacking in many books on Greek linguistics being published these days -- accessibility. You literally glide through the text. This book made me think more seriously about language than any book I read during my doctoral studies. I know you've got lots of books to read, but I hope you'll make time for this one.
3) Mark Love thinks we should shift the center of worship from sermon to table. I marvel why more of us don't practice this. There is no evidence that the New Testament church was pulpit-centric. There's plenty of evidence that it was Christocentric, as yours truly argues in chapter 5 of his book Seven Marks of a New Testament Church ("Christ-Centered Gatherings"). None of us means to, but it's just so easy to make our meetings anthropocentric. I love Acts 20:7, because it's so informative. The church gathered to break bread (the telic infinitive is used here), not to hear Paul preach until midnight. The "Christ" in our gatherings is so vital, central, important. Hang on to Him, folks. Give Him first place (Col. 1:18). Take and eat.
4) Do your kids know these 20 great hymns?
5) The top ten signs you're broke.
7:50 AM B. F. Westcott:
Thursday, October 20
5:48 PM Someone has said, "There is no agony like baring an untold story inside of you." So did I "bare it all" in my book Running My Race? Hardly. A person is so much more than their books. Honestly, I swept a lot under the carpet. I have been injured, and although Jesus can turn tragedy into triumph, I still grieve. True love always misses a spouse. It compels us to remember. It steals our innocence. You are in a season of life that seems never-ending. The chaos of coping can leave you frazzled and stressed. Guys and gals, as disciples, Jesus is telling us, "There is a cost to marriage. Will you be able to trust Me when your spouse dies? Can you accept your loss as a gift?" Letting go of my "right" to be married is a constant battle. There is no biblical prototype for what a grieving husband looks like. You know how Jesus felt about Lazarus. He wept at his grave. Jesus knew what He was talking about when He claimed to be the resurrection and the life. His friends needed to hear that. Jesus pushes us to trust in Him when there is death, when we take a front row seat at a funeral. He wins us over, not only by His tears but by His question, "You'll still trust Me, won't you?" I'm getting on a plane this Saturday. I'm booked at an event for widows and widowers. Why me? I'm still working on this grief thingy. Does that surprise anyone? There is simply no end that grief requires. And what makes it even worse is when I try to remember what it was like to be married. How can it feel like it was 50 million years ago?
So what's the point of this post? Nothing, really. I'm just emoting, venting, baring, confessing. (Griping?) "It's not good for man to be alone." Sheesh. I know. And because I know, I can be honest with my audience. What matters, fellow grievers, is not that our prayers sound pretty. What matters is that the Spirit pleads on our behalf. We are never alone, least of all when we pray. So if you would, could you please pray with me as I try to minister this weekend? I love being deliberate with you. Your prayers have meant everything to me. I have made the choice to accept my widowerhood. I have a deep and abiding love for my Savior. But I'm also glad, really glad, to have praying friends like you.
12:26 PM Just ordered:
10:30 AM C. S. Lewis:
9:58 AM One of the hallmarks of the Last Days is perplexity -- the condition of having lost one's way. Jesus put it this way in Luke 21:25-28:
You only have to read the news (or watch last night's debate) to observe the plight the nation finds itself in. Even Christians can be bewildered in such a time. Like Abraham, we do not always know where we are going. And there is no greater nuisance than the cheery politician who thinks he or she has all the answers.
Paul himself could admit that he was "greatly perplexed" (2 Cor. 4:8). But he quickly added, "... but not in despair." That's pretty much my attitude these days. I may not know what is ahead but I absolutely know Who is ahead. There's plenty of fog in the harbor, but the Pilot knows exactly what He is doing. "Up on your feet!" He says to His people. "Stand tall with your heads high!"
It's hard to imagine where our country will be in 10 years. But ours is not the perplexity of this age. We haven't been left stranded. "Help is on the way!" True freedom is not found in anything engineered by man, but in Jesus Christ. "The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose" need not be caught unprepared. The blessed Holy Spirit, the one who comes alongside to help, will sustain us with His sufficient grace.
Church, as we witness the shambles of our culture, let's seek first the kingdom of God. The Christian life is not merely lived by Christ's help. It is Christ.
P. S. Pix from yesterday:
1) The B-Area planning next fall's schedule in Old and New Testament.
These are some smart dudes. They keep me humble.
2) Scott Hildreth making Philippians come alive in our New Testament Intro class.
His emphasis on "partnering" in the Gospel as first and foremost a partnership of prayer was very convicting. I am conditioned to minimize prayer and overemphasize activity. Prayer counts.
3) Another lame, boring, and possibly aggravating pic of me haying yesterday.
4) Deal with it.
Tuesday, October 18
8:28 AM Quote of the day (source):
8:25 AM Allain de Botton's essay Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person caused quite a stir on yesterday's The Diane Rehm Show. (I should confess that I listen to Diane's show a lot, especially when I'm driving.) His basic point is that whomever you end up marrying will be full of imperfections, just like you are. Deal with it. I think there's a good deal of truth here. Personal self-fulfillment simply isn't the language of the New Testament when it comes to marriage. The kingdom of God allows imperfections, and we can accept each other, right where we are, right now. Husband and wife: you are beautiful. Your Father delights in you. You both have equal worth and value. You matter to God. Make space for each other's wisdom and failures. Care for others in tangible ways, putting your marriage at the service of the world. And remember: When Christ begins a work, He finishes it. We may occasionally find ourselves in the place of utter despair. That's okay too. We are called, as married couples, to the difficult, unsexy work of doing what is right. And part of doing what is right is, well, acceptance. "I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out," wrote Nora Ephron in her screenplay of When Harry Met Sally. "I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night."
I know this sounds crazy. But isn't this how real life works? Light is greater than darkness. And when we drag the darkness into the light, the process is innately healing. You just need to tell your spouse: "I am here with you as your best friend. We'll work it out, together." But sincerity is crucial. You can't fake love. Not in marriage. Husbands, love your wives. Like, love her. Boundaries may be necessary. But they come after grace.
So read the essay I linked to above and see what you think. I am no expert on marriage. Like you, I am a repentant learner. But we can all learn something.
(Side note: I'm posting here a pic of Becky and me 4 years into our 37-year marriage. We were living in Basel at the time. At that time I thought I knew everything about marriage. After all, people perceived me as an expert in other areas. Ugh! Dear friends, I am so terribly human. Still, I am capable, as you are, of being filled with the Spirit and living selflessly. Marriage really is that simple. We are accomplishing an extraordinary task through supernatural means. But perhaps it all starts with releasing each other to be who they are meant to be. Let's unshackle each other a little bit, shall we?
While I'm at it, let me thank Becky for putting up with me for all those years. I know she probably can't hear me. But honey, it was quite a ride wasn't it? I wouldn't have traded it for anything.)
Monday, October 17
6:45 PM Yes!
9:40 AM Okay. I've got Becky on my mind these days. Have you noticed? Nov. 2 will be here before we know it. What will I do on that day? I have no idea. Maybe I'll write a post about "biblical womanhood." You know, women like Priscilla, who was a powerhouse in the early church. Becky was like that. Or how about Anna, a longtime widow? Dare I mention Lydia or Mary or Martha or Chloe or Euodia or Syntyche or Junia (yes, it's a woman's name)? How about Corrie ten Boom or Elizabeth Elliott? I assure you, there was nothing weak about any of these women.
So I can't keep quiet. No one can take away what I know about Becky -- her sacrifice, her love, her sense of humor. I think God created Becky to show us all what it means to be truly human. That's why I love her testimony (My Life Story). And that's why I love this audio clip of her teaching about finances many, many years ago. Someone happened to record it and then gave it to me. (Thank you!). At one time, Becky was a very successful financial planner. She freely helped pastors and missionaries with their finances. Many can testify to how God blessed them through Becky's help and advice. So let me pass on to you this audio recording. Becky was not a "seven-steps-to-financial-success" person. Instead, she walked us through 2 Corinthians 8-9. Her exegesis is pretty great. Hope you enjoy it.
9:14 AM Can you believe it? This Saturday night I'm speaking at a banquet in South Carolina for widows and widowers. Boy, if that won't keep you humble. I've never done anything even close to this before. But since it's my "village," I'll give it my best shot. Understanding the stats is incredibly helpful. Each year 800,000 women are widowed in the U.S. There are currently more than 13.6 MILLION widows in America. According to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, the death of a spouse scores a solid 100 percent. Moreover, according to the American Public Health Journal, widowhood increase the survivor's risk of dying dramatically. (Interesting, but don't expect me to start saying goodbye.) In the U.S., half of the women over 65 are widows. Is there hope for widows and widowers? How can we best love people in this situation? I have much hope for those who have lost their spouse, mainly because we are precious to the Lord. Widowed people serve and lift, give and encourage -- or we can. And because of the beautiful thing we call the Body, no tragedy is ever weathered alone.
So what will I talk about? The crossing of the Jordan River (Joshua 3). What seems impossible for man is possible with God. You think crossing a river at flood stage is easy? It's downright impossible! But there IS a way (John 14:6), the "ark of the covenant" being one of the greatest types of Christ in the Old Testament. I don't really care a whit about the statistics I cited above. There is hope for stressed-out people! Widowed people need to know that they're not a burden to Jesus. He can fill up your tank, and mine. And church, let's be prepared to prioritize ministry to widows and widowers. They are people, not statistics. That is true of all single people in the church. Yes, they are broken and hurting, but so are you. How incredibly important is a healthy faith community! I hope the world sees us welcoming the bereaved with wide-open arms. And I hope they find those of us who are widowed to be kind and generous. What a church that would be!
8:36 AM Well, this will be an exceedingly important week on campus. For some time now I've been convinced of the absolute usefulness of discourse analysis for New Testament interpretation. It compels us to rethink the role of word study in exegesis ("The word in the Greek means ....") and move beyond -- far beyond -- the word to broader discourse units such as the paragraph and the section. Johannes Louw's The Semantics of New Testament Greek is a critically important work and a must read for everyone in the church who seeks to be faithful to the text as a whole. If you are a shepherd-teacher, you know how rich the Scriptures are. Now go and minister, heal, love, and teach -- not from the canteen of Saturday night, but from a reservoir of deep Bible knowledge. Stop waiting for someone else to tell you what the text is saying. I pray for messy studies, for late nights of study, for an insatiable hunger to draw out of the text what the Holy Spirit put into it. May your soul long for prayer and for the Scriptures. When others are preaching sermonettes, live counter culturally. It matters whether you are faithful. Accuracy is not easy but it is simple. Allow the text to be its own interpreter. Dig deep. Formal teaching can be simple without being simplistic. It really can.
Thank you, young twentysomethings, for reminding the church that boring messages are unacceptable. Thank you, scholars like Steve Runge and Stan Porter and Con Campbell and Don Carson and Moisés Silva, for never being content to do word studies only. Thank you for giving us eyes to see the forest and not just the trees and tiny little saplings. Thank you for creating a passion for entire texts. Thank you, students in my New Testament class, for working so diligently all semester long, for allowing me the joy of listening to your papers as you wrestle with the biblical text. You've helped me understand the urgency of what I do as a professor.
And so this is the week to move beyond word-bound exegesis, both in my New Testament class and in my Ph.D. seminar, where the topic is "discourse analysis." I wish all of you could attend. Trust me, I'm no expert on the subject. But I love the text. Look at it. It is gorgeous. It has architectural precision. The Bible is so good you can't believe it. Dear reader, nothing would make me happier than your own study of the text. Somewhere amidst all the commentaries out there is the defiant act of sitting down with the Scriptures opened in front of you -- the best kind of alchemy. Millennials can sniff out a fake a mile away. Pastor friend, be you, but be your best you. May I suggest a starting place? Struggling with the text. You are smart and capable. Do the hard thing. Reclaim your mantle. Do I always do this consistently? Are you kidding? But if you want to see what I'm talking about, go here. Better yet, study Philippians on your own. You will never trot out that tired cliché again -- "The theme of Philippians is joy in the Lord." Guess what? Joy is at best the by-product of doing what Paul commands us to do in 1:27. (No, I'm not going to tell you what that is. You'll have to discover it for yourself.) Meanwhile, please pray for my students this week. So few of us actually struggle with the text. We often feel so inadequate for the task. But inadequacy is a terrible reason to stay uninformed. Scripture tells us plainly that it is God-breathed. Let's go ahead and address this "stuff," shall we?
P.S. My thanks to my friend and colleague Scott Hildreth for blessing us this Wednesday with a special lecture on "Ecclesial Cooperation in Paul's Letter to the Philippians." Maybe we'll record it. And, if you're interested in how Becky and I did missions together, go here. I tell you, she was some gal.
Sunday, October 16
5:34 PM Got time for some pix?
1) Grateful for a beautiful fall day in Southside Virginia.
2) My buddy Jason and I decided to try and do a bike marathon.
4) Later I was treated to a lecture on "The History of Hebron Christian Church." This is where Nathan has been serving since 2008. It was a spellbinding talk.
5) The current building was constructed in 1880.
6) Facilities, anyone? Hehe.
7) This is my grandson Peyton, yall. He is getting so big!
8) Always love a good organ recital.
8:25 AM Read Why Boomers Are Having Trouble Convincing X-ers to Vote for Trump. Well, this Boomer is listening. Misguided hierarchies have no place in the kingdom of the heavens. Me? I will vote my conscience. Meanwhile, the Bridegroom is coming. Can't you sense that? In the chaos and confusion of our fallen world, it's little wonder we long for that push-back-the-darkness Day.
P.S. Please continue to pray for the Ben Merkle family. Ben is a dear friend and colleague of mine at SEBTS. The Brandon Merkle Memorial Fund is still open in case you'd like to give.
8:15 AM On Friday a friend asked me how hard it is to climb a 14er. I suppose it's something you just have to prepare for the best you can. Like yesterday's 5K. Normally, when I run, I am in no hurry. I settle myself in and let everything take care of itself. Yesterday I tackled a really difficult course in 32 minutes. I did well. I was strong enough. As with most of my races these days, at the finish line I feel fulfilled. I am simply happy.
When I climbed Huron Peak two weeks ago there were only a handful of other climbers on the mountain that day. I summited alone. Then a few others joined me on the top. They were all young bucks. We exchanged high fives and snapped photos. Then I started down. Before long I was overtaken by the rest of the group. Within half an hour I was completely alone on a 14,000 foot mountain. I was close to exhaustion but I wasn't despairing.
No stopping now. I'm on the train and I'm not gettin' off.
Most people, when they're in a similar situation, discover they are capable of a lot more than they thought they were.
From now on, Dave, it's exclusively your physical strength as well as your psychological stamina that will get you back to your truck.
There's an axiom among climbers that's inviolable: "You are 1,000 percent responsible for yourself. Others may or may not be around to help you. You need to be independent." It seems that, the more I climb, the more I realize how true this is. And this axiom applies to all of life. Because God has blessed me with good health, I can be fairly independent. I face life on my own, including its challenges. Huron Peak -- vast, unmanipulable, potentially deadly, profoundly rewarding -- is just like life anywhere. I believe that life is meant to be lived to its fullest. Don't wait for some future time to fulfill your dreams and innermost aspirations. Pursue your God-given goals, even in the face of past failures. Draw inspiration from others (Hebrews 11). Above all, be willing to expand your life in new ways. How else will you know what you're capable of?
Saturday, October 15
5:52 PM I know it sounds crazy, but with the anniversary of Becky's home-going coming up on Nov. 2, I've been übernostalgic these days. As I look back some three years later, a lot has happened in my life, but mainly I've come to realize (through this hard head of mine) that Becky's death was actually less significant than what God was planning on doing with it. That's why I could run today's 5K with such joy and exuberance, realizing that my pain and loss was no different from that of the Helton family who lost their 14-year old daughter two years ago. I wish you could have seen the joy on their faces. Theirs was an ordinary life, as mine was, until tragedy struck, but in the end our sufferings as human beings are more about God than they are about us. Our joy is rooted in the paradox we call Christianity, where up is down, sorrow is joy, defeat is victory. When I married Becky 40 years ago, little did I realize how mysterious and wonderful marriage would be, how glorious and harsh, how happy and sorrowful, how peaceful and tumultuous. I still sometimes look back on the day she died, but most often these days I turn my gaze forward and outward, believing that in the midst of a spouse's cancer and a child's brain aneurism there is grace available -- though a grace disguised as pain and suffering. Ellie's parents had a choice how to face their loss, and their faith allowed them to choose God. Today's race, you might say, was a "celebration" of so many things -- the legacy that Ellie left behind of a young lady known for her faith and laughter; the wonderful truth that, in Christ, God suffers with us; and the knowledge that God's tears are always mixed with ours. As for the race itself, I tried to run the best race I could, which is the only trophy I want or hope for. This is the prize we all seek in life -- the prize of becoming a person we can all be proud of. Not to be the best on the team, but to be the best you. Now that death has entered the picture, we join hands with others with similar experiences, share our feelings and memories, our joys and woes, and we do what we can to leverage our loss for good.
Today I competed in Ellie's memory, with Becky (as it were) by my side, and to the glory of God -- strangers brought together for a greater good, all heading for a Shore as though we were the last swimmers in the race, enlarged by our loss and experiencing greater joy and peace because of it. I wish you could have been there to see it.
1) Remembering their daughter. Honoring their Savior.
2) Yours truly got a second place medal among the Antediluvians.
3) Let's see, which nearby restaurant has scrumptious food?
4) Never been happier.
5) Kai wat in honor of you know who.
Friday, October 14
8:38 PM Great dinner tonight with good friends.
Love these brothers!
1:18 PM Please read the following about tomorrow's 5K race and then consider making a donation to a very worthy cause.
12:52 PM "They seek for themselves," wrote Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, "a house in the country, seashore, and the mountains. But this is altogether the mark of the common man, for it is in thy power whenever you shall choose to retire within thyself." My biking trails become that retreat. (Here's today's route.)
But then again, so do my mountains and my seashores, not to mention "a house in the country." Tomorrow, for a brief 30 minutes, I will have the freedom just to be me, without censure or praise, as I run a 5K for the Brain Aneurism Foundation. I am, for those 30-some-odd minutes, my own new Adam, the only one in my universe. The person that I am is expressed in the race and, when I run, my entire personality participates. My body allows this to happen. Moreover, as I run, the sights and sounds, pains and pleasures of life, become available to me in a unique way. Exercise should not be looked at as a game plan for successful living. It is successful living. I am never more alive than when I am climbing a really difficult mountain or riding a really big wave. Today, biking took me away from my disturbed circumference to the center of my being. Words fail to describe what the outdoors does to me. Almost always, the complete experience becomes timeless, selfless, beyond history or anxiety -- I could almost say a "mystical" experience. Health is not the product of this activity but a process -- an ongoing, continual, continuous state of becoming self-disciplined. It's largely our decision whether we are healthy or unhealthy, lean or overweight -- and I say this because each and every one of our habitual behaviors is adopted by personal choice. Exercise deficiency is a self-inflicted wound.
So today it was biking. Tomorrow, Lord willing, it will be running. On Saturday or Sunday it will be getting up hay.
And folks, anybody can do it.
All it takes is sweat.
Thursday, October 13
6:08 PM Today I started reading a wonderful little book called The Civil War as a Theological Crisis by Mark Noll, who is perhaps the doyen of American history among evangelicals today. It is masterfully written and brilliantly argued.
Noll tries to show how mid-19th century American Christians (both North and South) generally agreed that the Bible was authoritative but they differed on how that Bible should be understood. Not only this, but he shows how "the Book that made the nation was destroying the nation; the nation that had taken to the Book was rescued not by the Book but by the force of arms" (p. 8). He is so right about this! Indeed, how apropos to today's political climate in the United States. Biblical interpretation in America today, even biblical interpretation by conservative evangelicals, has perhaps never been so divided and chaotic. Just as the American Civil War generated a first-order theological crisis over how to interpret the Bible, so this year's presidential election is generating a first-order theological crisis over how to understand the work of God in our nation. The church of today has to a large degree become more or less subject to the controlling influence of public opinion rather than shapers of public opinion. The parallels with the 1860s are obvious. "Had white protestants been following the Bible as carefully as they claimed, they could not have so casually dismissed the biblical interpretations advanced by Pendleton and Fee and mentioned by Lincoln. The inability to propose a biblical scheme of slavery that would take in all races reveals that factors others than simple fidelity to Scripture were exerting great influence as well" (p. 56). I suspect that many Christians reading Noll's book would be nodding their heads in agreement. I'm finding this book a compelling demonstration of this truth. That's why today you will find leading evangelicals both defending Donald Trump and excoriating him, with both sides using the Bible to defend their actions. For my two cents, I cannot understand how anyone can defend Trump's candidacy. Yet I want to end by saying that this doesn't mean that I or anyone else has the right to condemn those who support Trump based on their own interpretation of "forgiveness," "the God of a second chance," "the sanctity of life," etc. I thus have no right to judge my Christian brother or sister in these matters. But neither can I with integrity claim to understand how they can reconcile their views with the teachings of the New Testament. All of this suggests, I believe, that each of us has to wrestle with how to reconcile the facts of this year's political cycle with the Scriptures. Above all, I hope we can all remember that we do not fight as the world fights -- that is, by hatred and violence (2 Cor. 10:3-4). Instead, we are called to fight this battle by displaying God's love to all people, including those with whom we might strongly disagree politically. My point is not that we shouldn't have strong convictions about whether so-and-so is qualified to be president of the United States. My point rather is that we need to constantly distinguish between the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and the kingdom of this world. And to do this, we must be more about giving other people Jesus Christ -- not rules, not entertainment, not partisan rhetoric. I have no confidence in the political system but I have every confidence in Jesus.
I encourage us all to keep the Gospel first. It really is a big deal!
1:26 PM Just as I summited Mt. Bierstadt last week I had one of the those "ohmygoodnessIthinkI'mdead" moments. I knew I had smashed my big toe but I wasn't sure if it was broken or merely sprained. Well, today I went to see the doc, who assured me it's only a bad sprain and I should be fine.
So no more activity for me -- at least until this Saturday, when I have a 5K in Cary. While at the doc's I also got my annual flu shot. This year the big threats, I'm told, are the California, Hong Kong, and Brisbane flu viruses. Earlier I met with one of my Ph.D. students over breakfast in South Boston for our bi-monthly mentorship.
The idea of a mentorship is to facilitate effective learning relationships. Actually, mentoring is a mutually beneficial relationship where both mentor and mentee grow in knowledge and self-awareness. Today we talked about two major topics in New Testament studies: textual criticism, and source criticism (primarily the synoptic problem). The goal is to see that my students are well-prepared for their upcoming comprehensive exams, where they are expected to be very familiar with practically every aspect of New Testament studies. (Ah yes, that exam.) Obviously, this can't be achieved overnight -- which is why we do this over the course of two semesters. Good mentors have three basic qualities: they remember what it was like when they were just starting out in their field; they are eager to share with their students their knowledge, skills, and expertise; and they are willing to accept the mentee where he or she is. I also use mentorship to try and help my students avoid the mistakes I've made and to learn from my good decisions. Good reader, I hope you have a mentor in your life. All of us are called to this work, and it might not seem like much, but if you play your note and I play mine, together perhaps, just perhaps, we can make some beautiful music for the kingdom of heaven.
Wednesday, October 12
6:10 PM L. R. Knost once wrote:
Life is amazing.
So how's my awful, amazing, ordinary life going? A few vignettes:
1) Nic Muteti (pastor of Forestville Baptist Church) stopped by and we chatted about African-American relationships and explored ways in which I could better serve that community.
2) Diagramming Rom. 1:1-7 in our Greek class last night.
3) This just arrived in our library.
4) Here my friend and colleague Brent Aucoin (Ph.D. in American History) lectures on "Race Relations" in my New Testament class (we're studying Philemon).
5) Brent's latest publication.
Jones was a governor of Alabama and a staunch defender of African-American civil rights. Thank you for the gift copy, Brent!
Meanwhile, it looks like it's going to be an awesome weekend. Hope to do some climbing, run a 5K, and get up hay. Also looking forward to reading Brent's book and doing some more thinking about his lecture topic, racial reconciliation. As the book I mentioned above (Remix: Transitioning Your Church to Living Color) points out, racism is a spiritual problem and requires a spiritual solution. Political "solutions" simply don't work. Consequently, no kingdom-citizen can ever place confidence in a political ideology or party, simply because the kingdom that Jesus is ushering isn't a "new-and-improved" version of the kingdom of this world. I think it's time we as Christians began leaning into the "already" and not just the "not yet" of the kingdom of God. But to do this we have to cling to the Bible and depend on the Spirit more than we have ever done in the past. I hope we can all live like we are equally loved by God. I pray for healing, healing in our nation and healing among the races. God's heart for us is peace -- total, complete, unbroken shalom. Jesus can do this. May we all be true believers!
Tuesday, October 11
8:24 AM This and that ....
1) Grandsons are great. Now I know where I got my love for climbing.
2) Life begins every day.
3) "I felt more alive as my seventy-fourth birthday rolled by than I had when I was young. Increasingly, I saw new possibilities, uninhibited confidence surged in me again. I was my own woman -- in some ways more than ever before." Sarah-Patton Boyle.
4) "To do missions is to love." Thus spoke Steve Chang at the Greensboro Chinese Christian Church on Sunday. I can think of no better definition of missions than this one. Just love people. My favorite book of Francis Schaeffer is his The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century, in which talks about "the mark of a Christian." We are to love others as Jesus loved us. The love He exhibited on the cross and exhibits daily in our lives is to be our standard. "The church is to be a loving church in a dying culture" (p. 136). Amen and amen!
5) "Do not look at the faces in the illustrated papers. Look at the faces in the street." G. K. Chesterton.
Monday, October 10
7:58 PM Much appreciation to my former doctoral student Mel Winstead who now teaches at Southern Evangelical Seminary. Tonight he interviewed me via Face Time for his New Testament Intro class in Charlotte.
The topic? My book Why Four Gospels? Easier to ask the question than to answer it, right? But I took a stab at it anyhow. What a delightful class. They asked me some great questions. Once I held to Markan priority. Not any more. The external evidence in support of Matthean priority is just too solid, but you have to read a lot of the Fathers and even peek into the corners. At any rate, it was great fun, and I'm so glad to have gotten reconnected with a former student. Thanks, Mel, and congratulations on your new teaching post!
5:06 PM Free copy of Running My Race to the first three people who write and ask for it. My email is email@example.com. No strings attached. Offer good through 7:00 am tomorrow.
Whew! This weekend has flown by!
Needless to say, I'm still in a state of ecstasy after my trip to
Colorado. Here are a few more reflections about my journey to the
2. Be prepared to hallucinate. No, it won't be because of Acute Mountain Sickness. It's just that your eyes don't work anymore. No matter how long you've hiked, the peak NEVER seems any closer. And it's like this all the way to the top. (Yes. Eventually you DO top out.)
3. Be prepared to stop and rest.
Frequently. Even if you're in great shape. At about 12,000 feet on my
descent I met a young medical doctor just sitting on a rock. She
couldn't take another step it seemed on her ascent. Though she was young
and super fit, I think she may have had AMS. I made sure she had plenty
of water, offered her some ibuprofen for her headache, then continued
the long slog down the mountain. Last I saw her she was walking --
P.S. My toe is still recovering but it's a long process.
The fault in my plan is that I hadn't done my homework and was unaware of the rocks I'd face nearing the summit of both Bierstadt and Huron. I have so much more to learn about climbing. The first requisite of climbing is knowledge. Know that it can be done. Know how to get it done. Then put your knowledge into practice.
Gotta cook my meals for the week!
Sunday, October 9
4:22 PM Author Stephen Covey once talked about the clock and the compass. The clock represents our schedules, goals, etc., while the compass represents our vision, our mission, our purpose and direction in life -- what we deem most important and how we lead our lives in view of that conviction. It's a matter of prioritizing our schedules in order to maximize our life's dreams. The ancient Greeks distinguished between time as measured sequentially and time as "appropriate" or "quality" time. Too often, urgency controls our lives when we should be guided by conviction. We seem to go from one crisis to another. But, says Covey, "the main thing is to keep the main the main thing." The key to a quality Christian life is our compass -- the choices we make every day to prioritize God's mission in our lives. That was my message this morning at the Greensboro Chinese Christian Church. I asked, "What's most important in your life?" "What gives ultimate meaning to your life?" "What do you want to do with your life?" My book Have You Joined the Cause of Global Missions? takes an in-depth look at these questions. It asks us to reconnect with the things that are most important to God. It's vital, folks, to recognize that "missions" is not a distinct "department" of life. It forms an interrelated whole. What we're talking about here is not simply a statement about belief, but a deep energy that comes from a thoroughly integrated sense of purpose. An integrated life-purpose prompts us to set realistic goals and helps us to stick with these no matter what. For example, to me one of the greatest benefits of physical exercise is not physical at all. Physical exercise can increase one's mental, social, and even spiritual dimensions as well. Also? Church as we know it all too often focuses on us. Every church can fall into this trap. But the gathering exists for the going. Always has, always will. I'm not trying to minimize the importance of association with a healthy local body. Find one that fits the bill for you theologically, and then love it with all the grace and selflessness you can muster. But guess what? You can live missionally without constant church management. We can all do this -- if we believe that the main thing is the main thing. The world is alive, crying out to us from every corner. We can hear its voice, but only if we are willing to bend low and put our ear to the ground and listen.
Many thanks to the staff of GCCC for showing me such hospitality this weekend. In so many ways you are modeling what "every member ministry" looks like, and for that I am truly grateful. Allen and Joanne Lo opened their beautiful home to me and allowed me time both for fellowship and for quiet rest. Thank you. What a blessed man I am to have such friends among the Chinese Christian community. Finally, pastor Steve Chang once had the audacity to take me for Greek, and it was he who asked me to come and participate in their month-long missionary conference. Steve is smart and capable, strong and wise. I am proud to call him my student and friend.
1) My home-away-from-home this weekend.
2) Allen and Joanne, the hosts with the most.
3) Enjoying Chinese food last night at the Lo house.
4) Welcome to GCCC!
5) Love these dear brothers!
6) The church at prayer.
Saturday, October 8
9:15 AM Last night a friend and I were sitting in my home library, talking about climbing, and he asked me if I had ever gone snowboarding. For me, that would be throwing caution to the wind. It's like when I gave up horseback riding about 10 years ago. As I would tell people, "I'm not too old to ride. I'm too old to fall." At 64, one feels a literal brittleness to one's bones that one never had in their 50s.
Now, cross-country skiing is another idea ....
I am getting older. I talk about that in my new book. As much as I enjoy sports and being active, I also have latent talents and goals in terms of writing and teaching that can't be ignored. And however I might end up using my talents and abilities in the years to come, my goal remains to "hoe to the end of my row," and to do so without self-pity in the middle of the furrow. I want to grow spiritually and age gracefully. I am all too aware that this book of mine only scratches the surface of what it means to age. But I trust that my reflections will make your aging years less fearful and more graceful.
As I've often said, this was a hard book to write, so I am all the more grateful to Henry and Jody Neufeld, who worked overtime making "the rough places plain." My basic premise is that it is possible to grow older without growing old. As long as we keep active, as long as we keep our hopes and dreams alive, as long as we stay engaged with life, God will renew our spirits. When Jeremiah went down to the potter's house, the potter did not discard the old clay. With great care and infinite patience he gave it back its dignity. The old clay took on a new and more beautiful shape. Today, I am clay in God's hands. Remember that, Dave. By His grace my sins are all forgiven; in His mercy even my failures are being redeemed.
Psychologists often advise older people to explore some other aspect of themselves. In case you haven't noticed, I've given myself freedom to change my lifestyle, to find new hobbies and priorities, even to seek new directions in life. I'm trying to see if I have left anything undone, perhaps an interest or latent talent that got covered or buried through the years. I am enjoying the quest. I still feel that God is calling me to some incredible journey of faith. I need to be challenged, to have something useful to do. I suppose that's why I accepted a speaking engagement this weekend in Greensboro and next weekend in South Carolina. In fact, when I'm in the Palmetto State I've been asked to speak at a widow/widower's banquet. Now that's a first! Widows (and widowers) are not "senior citizens." We are the "elders," and we are still maturing. We are redefining goals, taking renewed stock of our skills ands abilities, and looking to the future. My message to these fine people will be, in essence, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God." Old age can be a time of great fulfillment, a time when the loose ends of life can all be gathered up into one bundle.
May God help me today to reclaim my legitimate rights as a child of God without anger or apology. And may I show my gratitude to Him today by the way I bless my children and grandchildren, and all those I serve. May I celebrate my age, affirm my aches and pains, and perhaps even release the child within me that is full of spontaneity and fun.
Friday, October 7
6:56 PM Last week it sure was fun doing some peakbagging in the Rockies, but now that the weather is turning pretty sloppy I think I'm giving up tall peaks for the season and will wait until next July in the Alps to try anything too difficult again. The peaks I hiked in Colorado aren't as technically challenging as they are high -- but that fact made the hikes all the more worthwhile. I've had a great year of hiking and climbing. Climbing brings so much joy to my soul. The joy of being in a natural setting. The joy of self-discovery ("Can I really do this?"). The joy of exploring new territory. The beauty of a climb. When I started climbing a year and a half ago, I didn't have many expectations but more of a need to do something different with my life. I had grown accustomed to the rhythms of single life and work life. I was, if you will, rusting out a bit. Steve Jobs once said, "I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: 'If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I'm about to do today?" There are so many different kinds of climbing. I am far from being an "all-rounder" who enjoys all the various forms of this sport. I like heights. I like steepness. I am such a masochist! I don't like bouldering or free climbing. But I do enjoy rock scrambling. I like exploring remote parts of the earth.
For now, however, this Wanderlust of mine is taking a little hiatus. Climbing is not just a hobby. It's not just a sport. It's a way of life. And it's a community. Much like the church is, in fact. Why climb? Why explore places where very few other people have been? Aside from the pure pain and pleasure of the climb itself, I think the main reason I climb is because it allows me to enjoy God's creation to the fullest. When you stand on top of a 14,000 foot peak, you have a new perspective of the world. Do you remember the first time you climbed a tree? That's exactly the way I feel nowadays. You know, we can travel the globe in an airplane but never grasp the scale of God's marvelous handiwork. There's nothing like a tall mountain for a fresh perspective. And when you return to earth, you feel revitalized in both body and soul.
Maybe it's time we all climbed a little higher in our lives. The next time you see a mountain or even a hill, remember to stop and look up. Try climbing it if you can. You just might rediscover those instincts you had as a child.
Here's the GoPro I promised:
P.S. My books arrived while I was gone.
I tried to write it with honesty and passion. I'm still looking for an authentic Christian faith, and I am still not exactly sure what that looks like. So in this book I try to model what perhaps many Christians are afraid to voice. Hope you enjoy it.
Thursday, October 6
7:10 PM Today I flew back from Denver, which is a great place to get a "Rocky Mountain High." (No, not that kind of high.) As you know, my goal was to see whether or not I could actually make it to the top of one of Colorado's 14,000 foot peaks. Call it a "sufferfest" if you will. The altitude was a killer. "Altitude" has three official categories: high altitude (5,000-11,500 feet), very high altitude (11,500-18,000 feet), and extreme altitude (over 18,000 feet). So what does it mean to climb at "very high altitude"? For one thing, the lack of oxygen causes an increase in breathing rate (hyperventilation). As a result, your heart beats faster and faster. This means you have to be willing to endure hardship, and lots of it. You just have to be psyched to deal with it. Suck it up and climb! It's okay that it's hard. Climbing at very high altitude isn't child's play. You need experience, skill, and tons of confidence. This trip was easily the craziest and most difficulty undertaking I've ever done. Harder than the Alps even. The main danger is going too high too fast. The key is ascending sloooooowly. When I was climbing, I took a breath, then a step. Yes, I was that slow! I took deliberate breaks. I stayed hydrated. And by the pure grace of God, I summited both of the peaks I attempted: Mount Bierstadt at 14,065 feet, and Huron Peak at 14,003 feet. Woohoo! As I put it in an email:
See what I mean about climbing 14ers? Don't expect to hop off the sofa and onto the trail. You'll need a base level of fitness equal to running a 5K. Also, keep in mind that the Rockies are, well, rocky. As you approach the summit, the trail ends and you find yourself picking your way through innumerable rocks and boulders. And there are no "short" climbs. The average 14er is at least 5 miles round trip. (Huron Peak was a whopping 11 miles.) So plan to go slower than you think you need to. Even if you're in excellent shape, the thin air will wind nearly everybody. High-SFP sunscreen and lip protection are essential. And because you'll be on your feet for a very long time, make sure your hiking boots/shoes are ultracomfortable. In addition, I took along a lightweight rain jacket. I needed it, too. On Bierstadt, it both snowed and rained periodically during my climb. Above all, use hiking poles. They're great stabilizers and take a huge load off your knees. Finally, don't forget your trail etiquette. Uphill hikers always have the right of way because they have the momentum.
14ers are fantastic. They are definitely "hard" but in a good sense of the word. I'm horribly clumsy and tripped approximately a gazillion times. Both climbs were long and exhausting. But my trip to Colorado was never about comfort. It was about testing my ability and stamina, about climbing some of the world's highest mountains, about making new acquaintances along the way. The view from atop Huron Peak was by far my favorite memory from the trip. I had great weather (mostly), met wonderful people, and enjoyed some of the most beautiful scenery in all of North America. I can't wait to go back and bag another 14er!
1) The Airbnb I rented in Golden. I had the entire basement suite to myself. Fabulous.
2) The start of the Bierstadt trail. Gorgeous.
3) Almost to the summit.
4) Made it!
5) The view from the top.
6) At the summit of Bierstadt I sprained my big toe, which had a very long toenail. So here I am getting my toenails operated on. It almost required a chain saw.
7) My next goal: Huron Peak.
8) See what I mean by "rocky"?
9) My second 14er!
10) Rocks, boulders, and peaks everywhere you look.
11) If you want to see what climbing a 14er is like, watch this vid. I took it as soon as I summited (whereas normally I wait a few minutes to let my breathing return to normal). This is what it's like when you've just climbed to 14,003 feet after an elevation gain of a staggering 3,800 feet.
12) Since I am now officially a "14er," I thought I deserved to eat yak stew at the Sherpa House Restaurant in Golden. Namaste!
13) Tuesday night I had the honor of speaking at Summit Church Denver. Andy and Bryan (both founding elders of the church) are former Greek students of mine. Proud of these two young men!
14) It was a great time of mutual edification.
15) Yesterday I was hoping to bag my third 14er (Mount Elbert) but it was snowing in the mountains, so I did some rock climbing in the local hills.
16) What fun!
17) Dinner last night at the Abyssinia Restaurant in downtown Denver. I had kai wat in honor of Becky. What a great way to end a great vacation!
This is my life, and I love it. Lord willing, I'll post a GoPro later. Time to unpack!
Thursday, September 29
5:40 AM Off to the mountains.
Wednesday, September 28
4:02 PM Well, the call is in the wind again, beckoning me westward. Yet another journey to another state in pursuit of another adventure in sorting out my life, including questions of self-worth and how best to be used by God in my remaining years as a man, a teacher, and a father/grandfather. I believe my life, like yours, is a proclamation. We Christians are a prophetic community. By our words and deeds we seek to embody what Christ meant when He called us to a life of abundance. Everything we do, from washing dishes to teaching classes to climbing mountains, testifies to the grace of God in our lives, if we let it. God saved us because He longs to rescue us from ourselves, to see us become fully human. He wants us to dare to expect Him to move in our lives in miraculous ways. But we need to learn from each other. Our lives are intertwined. Part of my own journey has been to finally admit I need others. Over the years I've learned to put myself in the posture of teachability. For me, there will always be more questions than answers. Even if the subject is Greek. I said as much in Andreas Köstenberger's hermeneutics seminar today, where I was honored to be a guest.
The subject was Greek linguistics, and how biblical exegesis is as much a spiritual discipline as is prayer and fasting. But you have to prepare. You have to study like the dickens, and then you have to put into practice what you've studied. Greek 1 is only a beginning point. I so deeply crave that my students use what they acquire. Not doing so is utterly deplorable. Yet it happens to all of us, even the best of us. In last night's doctoral seminar I simply wanted to remind my Greek students of the well-worn paths that other grammarians have carved out for us.
Strangely enough, we found Jesus in translating Greek and reading the Didache and composing sentences in Greek from English, every activity helping us to find a way toward the future, to our born-again selves all over again. This focus on the text (and texture) of Scripture, this personal encounter with the New Testament (kissing our bride on the lips rather than through the veil, as Luther put it), not only reorients our faith but draws us right back to the tools we need to grow in our faith. A lot of pastors of my generation have given up on Greek. They fail to wrestle with the text. I hope this changes. I hope we can push back against ignorance and biblical illiteracy and breathe into the kingdom to come. I'm not saying the Bible is the Fourth Member of the Godhead. But Bible study is not optional for followers of Jesus. It's a game where everyone gets to play. You, my friend, get to read and study and be challenged every bit as much as I do. To know God is to know His word. "Let God transform you into a new person by changing what you think" (Rom. 12:2, NLT). Yes, I know the Bible seems too big to manage, so confusing at times, so difficult to understand. Set out anyway, pilgrim. Don't walk away from the only Light on the path you can depend on. I've been teaching Greek for 40 years and still struggle both in terms of knowledge and obedience. So what? Life is complex. Arbitrary proof-texts that once worked don't work anymore. Yet He still speaks. And His words illuminate the way forward.
I hope and pray my students get this. Less hero worship. Less Christian superstardomism. Less celebrity. More embodiment. More incarnational ministry. More intimacy with our Maker.
As I leave for the Rockies, I am both thrilled and terrified of this great Creator. Two and a half years later, I'm still aching, still asking questions, still numb. The mountains are places I am drawn into, wept into, born again into, broken into. I'm under no illusions that I've arrived spiritually. But I'm resting in the tenderness of Jesus. I hope we can all live this experience. Jesus is as good as it gets. And I'm incredibly thankful that I labor alongside such faithful colleagues and students, as together we walk into the great unknown.
Tuesday, September 27
8:52 AM Scanning the schedule for Advanced Greek Grammar tonight I noticed that we are discussing syntax. When I was in seminary it was implied (in so many words) that using Greek meant doing word studies. Period. You know, Vincent, Robertson, Wuest, Kittel, and Colin Brown. That is a fib. Lexical analysis (word study) is the handmaiden and not the queen of New Testament exegesis. The savviest Greek student knows better than to stop with words. "But words preach so well!" I've always loved (Not!) the evangelical obsession with "The word in the Greek means ...." Dear one, there is no rule that says you have to even mention the Greek word in your message. Hear me on this: words are merely building blocks. It's the whole building we're after. And the plain truth is that you don't even need to know much Greek today to do word studies, what with the ubiquitous online helps. But to see "Wie der Text spielt" (How the text plays out), you'll need to move on to syntactical analysis. At first blush this sounds really simple. Except this is actually one of the most difficult things you will ever do. And it has everything to do with exegesis, this study of syntax. So what say we push through boundaries and beyond fatigue and get the job done? It's our job, for crying out loud.
P.S. Yes, we will be diagramming sentences tonight. Clauses in particular. As in that great warning passage in Heb. 6:4-6, where syntax perhaps (I said perhaps) holds the key to understanding this difficult text.
Monday, September 26
1:22 PM This fine morning I spent working out at the Y then biking 5 miles at a pretty good clip (13 MPH). Afterwards I was invited out to lunch by Nate and Jess and the kids.
Yes, I am completely spoiled.
8:15 AM This and that ....
1) Just signed up for the annual UNC Lineberger 5K. Yep, the same Lineberger that our memorial fund went to. The race starts at 7:30 at the North Hills Shopping Center in Raleigh. The date is October 8. I've run this course before and it is awsum. What a grand finale to my week in Colorado!
2) Amazon now lists the Kindle version of Running My Race. From the publisher's blurb:
3) Terrorism and Immigration: Just the facts, ma'am.
4) Jeff Hardin asks, Is Science "Awe"some for Christians? I'd like to think the answer is yes, but what do I know. As the essay notes, "science and faith are not enemies." I suppose this means I can't publish books with a recently-minted publishing house that requires its authors to abstain from the use of "higher-critical" methodologies. I've spent the better portion of the past 40 years as a teacher doing just the opposite. Oh sure, there will always be evangelicals who take the methodologies too far (as in radical redaction criticism). But let's not forget about scholars like F. F. Bruce or Howard Marshall to name just two. And let's not squander the natural revelation that comes from the hand of God every bit as much as the special revelation we find in His word.
5) Love is a verb.
Sunday, September 25
7:10 PM As you all know, Becky and I have used the restored 1811 farm house on the farm for guests, and mighty busy it will be for the next 6-8 weeks while a couple of out-of-state friends of mine do a major job at the local power plant.
That would make Becky Lynn very happy. I, of course, have to take care of most everything nowadays by my lonesome. Please act impressed, because I am a moron and still manage to keep the farm from falling apart. Tomorrow night these guys will be risking their digestion on my Chinese stir-fry (why eat at the Chinese restaurant when you can have my Ersatz special?). A foodie I am not, but I do enjoy cooking Chinese food, with my special (secret) ingredient, of course (*wink*).
(Tonight, by the way, I'm watching The Magnificent Seven on Amazon -- the old version with Charles Bronson, Lee Marvin, et al. I have a crazy passion for ancient movies, and I really don't like remakes so I won't be seeing the newer version.)
10:06 AM Vickie Bae-Jump, whose cutting-edge cancer research at UNC the Becky Black Memorial Fund supported, has recently co-authored a significant study about the relationship of obesity to endometrial cancer. The results boggle the mind: obese women have a 2-5 fold higher incidence of endometrial cancer than non-obese women. In addition, 62 percent of American women are overweight or obese. The study concludes:
I don't want to make anyone feel guilty. Everyone struggles with weight issues. As you might have deduced from reading this blog, I have. That's why fit people inspire me. When I run a 5K, I'm honored to be in their presence. I don't want fitness to become a self-obsession. On the other hand, God does want us to care of our temples. At any rate, I thought Vickie's essay was worth mentioning. Becky had no predisposing symptoms of uterine cancer. Not one. And she was certainly not overweight. Can't say for sure, but my guess is that Jesus never over-indulged in garbage food. However, I won't point the finger at anyone but myself. Only the Holy Spirit can point us to the good paths God has planned for us. And you'll be the one who hears Him, not your spouse or children or some blogger out there somewhere.
9:12 AM Got up early this morning to enjoy the sunrise, get my personal finances done, and anticipate next weekend. I serve a Savior who finds ways to get old men up tall mountains. When I arrive in Golden, Colorado this Thursday my goal is to hike to the summits of both Grays Peak and Torreys Peak (called "Front Range" on this map) on the next day.
This will be a rite of passage for me, I guess you could say -- my first 14ers in the Rockies. In the grand scheme of things, the Alps are starting to look, well, average. Grays and Torreys involve 3,600 feet of elevation gain, and the round trip length is 8.5 miles. The highest you can go is 14,270 feet.
So evidently, it's a pretty rigorous hike. I'm expecting to be on the trail for a 6-8 hours. Currently the conditions are good but all of that can change on a dime. It'll be what it'll be when I get there. I'm told I need to take the essentials: lots of water, TP (of course), sunscreen, a first aid kit, my trekking poles, warm clothes and wool cap, my GoPro, and plenty of trail mix and jerky (hopefully the kind that doesn't taste like tree bark). I think hiking is like reading a book: what you get out of a book depends entirely on what you bring to it. Conversely, the author makes all the difference for me. In fact, I'd say I don't read books, I read authors. These are writers I return to again and again. That's one of the reasons my library is so limited. When I ask my students today how many of them have reader Schaeffer or Ellul or Kierkegaard, the answer is practically nobody. We all have our personal favorites I suppose. I have tried to read today's "popular" authors, well-loved by the students on campus, but for me the spark is just not there. That said, it's impossible to grow without reading. Likewise, it's impossible to enjoy God's creation without going outside. The reader and the hiker find no problem with fatigue. The mind gladly reflects, the body gladly puts itself into motion. Thus no hike is trivial to me. Perhaps that's why I share the details of my climbs with you (although you do get to choose whether or not you'll read what I have to say).
Saturday, September 24
5:54 PM Quick note: Just heard from my mountain guide in Switzerland. My program for next July is now set in -- well, Jell-O. But it's a start (subject to change). It includes bagging three 4,000-meter peaks. Here's what I'd like to do.
Day 1: Riffelhorn (9,603 feet; rock scrambling; practice for Matterhorn).
Day 2: Pollux (13,425 feet).
Day 3: Hohsaas (10,164 feet).
Day 4: Allalinhorn (13,212 feet).
Day 5: Riffelhorn (more rock scrambling).
Day 6: Hike to Hornli Hut (10,696 feet) on the Matterhorn.
Day 7: Matterhorn (14,692 feet; as far as I can go!).
Let me tell you something. I'm pretty excited. Don't worry. I'm not going to bore you with the details. (I'll save that for later.) Admittedly, I feel a little anxious. That last climb is a real doozy. Which reminds me: I'm doing this for a reason. My routine needs a serious shake-up, and has ever since Becky died. What will God will do with all of this? Um, I haven't the foggiest idea. I'm not going to project my goals onto His plans. But He's given me this love for the Alps so -- hey -- let's do it. Whenever I climb, remarkable people surround me. So much to learn from them. Sometimes I feel too old and feeble for anything. Climbing reminds me I am neither.
4:14 PM Very emotional funeral service today on campus. Loss keeps you teetering on the edge of faith. But Jesus keeps on drawing us close. There's just no escaping Him. Honestly, He's our Hero, not some politician. So while we're fighting each other -- "Don't vote for Trump!" -- "Don't vote for Clinton!" -- Jesus is waging war against all the things we hate -- injustice, racism, division, hubris. I don't want to be known for what I'm against. I'm simply for Jesus and the massive movement He's started. The world's problems are amazingly complex. God's word is embarrassingly simple. Love is not sex. Wealth is not money. Relationship is not religion. Faithfulness is not success. You gain by losing. When we're weak we're strong. Joy and hope at a funeral. I'm so grateful for my friend. I don't know how he was able to stand there and give his testimony at the funeral of his son. His words of faith and hope stunned me into silence. I walked outside Binkley Chapel and turned to face the bright sun, blinked my tears away, and offered a prayer of thanks for God's unfathomable grace. "The Lord comforts His people and has compassion on His afflicted ones." That includes a 64-year old who still trusts Him to work the common, everyday miracles he needs to keep going. Without question I know this is His will for me -- this following Jesus in servanthood, this loving the world like Jesus does, this sitting silently in an empty house shouldering the suffering of my friends. I couldn't say a word after the funeral. Words weren't necessary. There is something powerful about just being there, sharing the darkness and the hope. You really think I'm going to read emails filled with hate for Hillary (or Trump)? Oh lawd. I think there's a better way. We can do better than hate.
By the way, I began reading a really good book today about creation. It's birthed in me a renewed interest in science and theology. I've been gobbling it up. Folks, ain't we got some Creator? The One who made the heavens and the earth designed 60,000 miles of blood vessels in our bodies. I'm smart about a few things (maybe), but science isn't one of them. But the pressure is on to get savvy. I'm just wired that way. I like understanding this world I live in. Ignorance is not appropriate when God has created brains. Plus this book is suuuuuper interesting. Thank you, Jesus.
Time to mow....
7:52 AM BIG NEWS! Ishi almost ate her first carrot.
1) With the Glasses at a local eatery.
2) Time to feed the donks.
3) Go Ishi!
Friday, September 23
5:38 PM I arrived back at Rosewood today, a little weary from the travel but glad for the time spent in the great outdoors and especially with Dad. I ended up doing a 13.2-mile half marathon yesterday at the High River Bridge Trail in Farmville. My goal was to finish in under 3 hours. Then this morning I did some biking at the Appomattox River Trail near Petersburg. We had a bit of rain yesterday, but today was a beautiful day in Southside Virginia, about 75 degrees with clear skies. As you know, I used this time for special prayer needs. I've been praying especially for a good friend of mine whose 18-year old son passed away suddenly on Tuesday. The funeral is tomorrow. I've also been praying for two good friends whose families are facing cancer -- in one case it's the wife, in another it's their young son. I told them I'm going to "dig in" and pray for them that God might see fit to grant them healing in the fullest sense of the term, whether medically or miraculously. "The Christian life is not a playground; it's a battlefield." I forget who uttered those words but boy are they true. The good news is that all of heaven is open to hear our prayers. If you've ever experienced a big loss, you can feel for these families. Wordsworth's simple words about his own loss come to me: "But she is in her grave, and oh, the difference to me!" Tomorrow, after the service, everyone will go their separate ways. The funeral will be over for most of us. Not for the family ("Oh, the difference!"), and not for God. Sometimes I think I need to talk less and pray more -- for guidance, for strength, for healing, for all those who are active in civil government, and especially for those who are working directly for the coming of the kingdom here and around the world. The ancient Romans coined the expression, "Sic transit gloria mundi," and I for one couldn't agree more: "Thus passes away the glory of the world." The only thing that really matters is that God's glory be clearly seen in this world, and if that means that our own glory needs to fade away, so be it, because it's fading away anyhow.
So it was a good time of prayer. And of exercise. By the way, year-to-date I've chocked up a total of 140 workout hours with a weekly average of 16.6 miles. My "All Time" stats include 211 hours of workouts with a distance of 1,098 miles plus 153,486 calories burned since I joined Map My Run in April of 2015. That's the distance from Washington DC to Dallas, Texas. And I'm not done yet. It's crazy to think that in one week I'll be leaving for the Rockies. I'm sure you've got your own personal goals too. I'll admit it: I'm a huge dreamer. If you were to look at my travel schedule you'd think I was either stoned or crazy. But if there is something God is leading you to do, commit to radical obedience to the very best of your abilities. He will honor that. The apostle Paul is a shining example of that. Despite all of his hardships he just kept on trucking. It's a beautiful place to stand: in the center of God's will for your life, on the verge of a hundred adventures He has planned for you. Guys and gals, we must ask the Spirit to help us release any fear that stands in the way. Let's allow sweet submission to rule in our hearts and allow the Living Water to saturate our thirsty souls. And you know why, right? That's what God created us for! The Enemy can bend us but he can't break us. And even if he could, God is in the business of turning ashes into beautiful things.
A final serendipity: I arrived at my Airbnb yesterday in Colonial Heights only to find that Les's headquarters during the Siege of Petersburg was located next door to where I was staying. The house is called Violet Bank and, to be truthful, you'd never know it was there unless you accidentally ran across it, as I did. If you have time, check it out. I enjoyed my hour-long tour of the house and was impressed by its ornate Federal architecture, from the intricate crown moldings to the hand-crafted wainscoting to the original hardwood flooring.
Onward we go -- still trusting!
1) The site of my personal half marathon.
2) I barely came in under 3 hours!
3) My Airbnb room. Sweet!
4) Violet Bank.
5) Impressive architecture.
Thursday, September 22
9:40 AM Grandsons are awesome.
9:28 AM Later today I'm starting a two-day prayer retreat, praying while walking. "We do not belong to those who have ideas only among books, when stimulated by books," wrote Frederich Nietzsche. "It is our habit to think outdoors -- walking, leaping, climbing, dancing, preferably on lonely mountains or near the sea where even the trails become thoughtful." For me, walking is more than an activity. It's a chance to forget the pressures of life for a time, throw off the burden of cares, escape the constraints of work, and focus your mind on spiritual things and the needs of others. To those who don't walk, this simple description of walking appears as an absurdity, a form of enslavement. Well then, I am a slave to something I guess. A human being is a moving two-legged creature. We are meant to walk. After Becky's death I became a walking machine, in need of intense solicitude. When I wasn't climbing in the Alps I was walking everywhere in Zermatt.
When you walk vertically (i.e., when you climb), you look down on the world and your fellow human beings. It's an amazing perspective. There is a quest for a different Light. Think of an author who composes while walking or a musician who thinks up tunes while ambulating. The body on a walk rests in a swirling meander of wide open spaces. I think I could walk all day long. There is a sudden happiness, a sense of magnificent health. When you go "outside" you pass from one "inside" to another "inside." You transition from domestic concerns and breathe in the lively freshness of a fall breeze. (Yes, fall started yesterday.) You live in the landscape, flourish in the fauna, luxuriate in the life all around you. Speed doesn't matter. Time stretches into space. When we are walking, the body has time to absorb God's magnificent creation.
This is how I walk, saying without pause a prayer to the One who is dearer to me than all else in the world.
9:22 AM Scattershooting:
1) Henry Neufeld publishes his final post about Seven Marks of a New Testament Church.
2) Thomas Hudgins asks Does Jesus Hate Titles?
3) Roger Olson notes what's wrong with #Some Lives Matter.
4) Scott Burson discusses his new book on Brian McLaren.
5) Here's how to highlight Greek sentences.
Wednesday, September 21
8:18 PM I still can't believe this book is nearing completion.
I think I've aged 40 years in writing it! Then again, I am the same Dave I was 10 or 20 years ago. Erik Erickson's eight ages of man are present at every stage, every characteristic operating though one is dominant at any given stage. Now in my 60s I realize that I have unused capabilities resident in my body and mind. The real contest of life is within you. I am becoming a person I can be proud of, but the process is agonizingly slow. The philosophy of running is the philosophy of Christianity. We make gradual progress in holiness -- in Christlikeness if you will. The normal Christian life is one of continual expansion and growth. I am preoccupied these days with maximizing what is latent within me. Goodness knows, but I don't have that many years left. To do that one has to become a good chooser. We have to make choices that lead to more and more wholeness in our lives -- which often means cutting out certain habits and even relationships that have gone sour or that are depleting us of our energy and life force. The good news is that life is a sum game. Everyone -- from the first place finisher to the person who comes in dead last -- can rejoice in a personal victory. Our society seems to worship youth and prowess. But I am content to grow old. Older people have a wealth of wisdom to offer. Our churches would be wise to consult them more often. As we saw in our NT class today, there's no substitute for experience. Thus in this book I have given you the results of my life experiences, at least up to the present. Dejunking life has great value. "Travel light," said Jesus. "Don't be encumbered with possessions and things." True life consists of who we are, our character, even if we are broken. There is a time to be young and there is a time to be old. Let's not feel guilty but, instead, enjoy those moments.
7:28 PM I've often likened Scripture to a great cathedral. It doesn't take an expert in art history to recognize the beauty of a cathedral and its grand architecture. What drove people to construct such magnificent edifices? Amazing. And yet the Scriptures -- ah yes, the Scriptures. How sublime, how precise, how magnificent, how grand! Here's a sampling from 2 Corinthians that we looked at in our Ph.D. seminar last night.
Paul's list of his sufferings is not accidental. The list betrays a pattern that is clearly discernable in the Greek. Paul writes beautifully with no imperfections. And what's more, he is not trying to be "ornamental" but rather has his readers in mind, as all good writers do. For my Power Point of this text, click here -- and be prepared to be blown away. Notice, too, how hard the ISV and The Message labored at trying to bring out these patterns in their renderings of this passage. Other than one or two infelicitous renderings, Eugene Peterson hits the ball out of the park. Leads one to ask the delicious question: "How many other passages contain such exquisite architecture?" Are there other "Notre Dames" yet to be discovered in the Bible? I'll admit it: I am a syncretist. I love to integrate Greek with linguistics. Bible study is a very personal matter. But it can never be done in a vacuum. For those seeking to read the Bible as great literature, the study of Greek will most certainly not be a waste of time.
P.S. A thousand thanks to Dan Heimbach for his lucid, compelling, and deeply important lecture in our NT class today.
Tuesday, September 20
8:36 AM Last week's NT class featured my colleague Ken Keathley. For his essay, "Confessions of a Disappointed Young Earther," go here. (I love writers who are smart enough to be cynical but who choose not to be.) This week's class will host yet another of my colleagues, Dan Heimbach, whose topic will be homosexuality. Dan has written an excellent book on the subject called Why Not Same-Sex Marriage. This is a gutsy-book and an absolute must read. In our Advanced Greek Grammar Ph.D. seminar we're celebrating Greek morphology this week, if such a thing can be "celebrated." I believe it can, as we will see in tonight's class. Finally, in our Greek 1 class we will introduce adjectives of the first and second declensions, words such as agathos and kalos, and show how Jesus called Himself the "good-looking" shepherd.
Thanks to all of my students this semester. You're the greatest. It's fun truth-seeking and rabble-rousing with all of you.
8:22 AM So the mission of God is for all of us. It's for you and it's for me. But it's not our mission. It's His. "God is a fountain of sending love" (David Bosch). So there's no other option but to go. "Go, send, or disobey." No. All of us must be going. All of us must be intentional about the gospel. More demands await us. Even when you're dog tired, as I was this weekend. Older people can still be active for the kingdom. We also need time for renewal and reflection. That's a lesson I learned this weekend. Or should I say, re-learned. We pray, "Take from our souls our strain and stress, and let our ordered lives confess the beauty of Thy peace" (words from that great old hymn, Dear Lord and Father of Mankind.) Anna and Simeon may have served God in the temple but they also took time for prayer as they waited for the Messiah.
Source of all peace, I am the biggest klutz when it comes to resting. You know that. Help me to find that creative balance between being and doing, between being active and being quiet. Let me never be so old as to cling to outmoded habits. Help me make the final innings the best ones of the game. Let me work hard daily at practicing the words of Paul: "I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content." Thank You for the gift of this day. Help me to make it count for You. Amen.
Monday, September 19
8:28 PM This was absolutely the strangest weekend. I left for the airport on Friday morning in two pieces. Half of me was excited to be seeing my daughter Matthea and her family again and speaking in their church in Birmingham -- at their first ever missions conference no less. The other half of me was totally spent both physically and spiritually, the tears welling up every time I thought about Becky. I pondered: How in the world am I going to keep these two halves together this weekend? It was the Perfect Storm, a Trifecta no less. First, there was my anniversary last Sunday. Then there was the UNC presentation on Thursday. Finally, my manuscript hung over my head like the Sword of Damocles. All of these put me into a dance where I didn't know the steps. I arrived in Birmingham and checked into a hotel where I slept for 48 hours. It was wonderful, just sleeping and sleeping and sleeping and sitting and then sleeping again, doing absolutely nothing and talking to absolutely nobody because I so wanted to be in top form on the Lord's Day. I woke up Sunday morning with a headache and a cough, feet dragging, and drove to the church and spoke twice with all my tenuous strength, then went back to my hotel room and crashed and burned a second time. When I woke up, I had run out of legitimate excuses for postponing my editing work, so I sat myself down, said a prayer, and then -- pushed through. All of a sudden I was finished. Every chapter was edited. Suddenly everything was right with my world again. How have I been blessed like this? What caused my headache and fatigue to suddenly disappear? What gave me back my appetite? The sun set and I went out and ate a delicious supper, took a long walk, and prayed a Hebrew blessing, the Shehecheyanu: "Blessed are You, our Lord God, Ruler of the Universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion." I know this doesn't make sense, this feeling of being so exhausted one day and so relieved and exhilarated the next, this reluctance to edit when the results promise so much, this storming the gates of heaven on behalf of the lost, the poor, the billions who will never hear about the love of Christ unless we become fulltime missionaries and tell them of a victory that was won two thousand years ago on a hillside outside of Jerusalem. I am by no means a wise man, but I think I'm beginning to discover that God's power is best seen in our weaknesses, and that if we wait upon the Lord we will not grow weary. (Thanks, Matt, for the reminder.) Over the past two and a half years I've seen this truth played out time and time again, have taken massive double-takes, have realized repeatedly that I'm an image-bearer of a beautiful God, a God I saw so clearly in the solo my granddaughter sang in church yesterday in memory of her Mama B, and in the testimony of Sarah who teaches English to Chinese students, and in the passion of normal everyday believers who can't wait to build their next church in Brazil, and in the average church members who are convinced that gospeling is not just the job of professionals. All of this is what makes my life so worthwhile, this not knowing what my tangled existence will look like from day to day, this adventure God has me on. And even in my darkest hours I can still see Christ clearly, and my Daddy makes sense to me, and His Spirit sustains me.
Strength and weakness. They go together, to me. It's just who I am, I guess.
How about you?
1) Here was the venue for the conference.
2) My precious granddaughter Katherine sang "In Christ Alone." She wasn't the only person to get choked up by the words "Till He returns, or calls me home ...." Thank you, sweetheart, for so honoring your Mama B!
3) My topic was the glory of the Lord in Ethiopia (aka, discipleship is always costly).
4) Here's Matthea and Jon along with Katherine, Carter, Caleb, and Christian. Love this family!
5) Here Sarah reminds us that the mission of God is not limited by geographical boundaries.
6) Her summer English camp is what some might call "missions in reverse" as she shares the Gospel with visiting students from China.
7) The Brazil team. Happy looking bunch, eh?
8) Sisters reaching out to their sisters with simple deeds of love. Wow. Go WMU!
How I wish I could have hung around to hear the other three speakers this week. I know that those who can attend will grow in God's grace, in their knowledge of biblical truth, and in their compassion for the nations, including our own. Thanks to pastor Jon and his staff for organizing such a marvelous conference. I trust it will be the first of many catalytic events in the life of their church. Meanwhile, I will continue to pray for a mighty missionary movement among all God's people and that each of us would be an instrument in His hands, not only locally but internationally and cross-culturally!
Friday, September 16
6:58 AM I'll be speaking in Birmingham this weekend. My message? Every Christian is a missionary -- God's representative -- in his or her own corner of the world. In our school, in our home, in our job, we meet people no other Christian can. Some of my sub-points:
It's game time, folks. And guess what? Jesus does not play the game for us. We have to carry the ball. And we carry it best when each and every one of us steps up and meets our personal responsibility of living with gospel intentionality. But remember: He's right at our side, encouraging and challenging and directing and rooting us on. We needn't be afraid or discouraged. We need only follow the Leader.
My thanks to Nate for keeping a close eye on the farm while I'm gone. And thanks to all of you for your prayers. During this trip I have to complete my final reading of Running My Race, but every time I try I start crying. Maybe I'm just tired. Maybe I never realized what an emotional toll writing this book would have on me. It's an old fear of mine, this I-can't-do-it mentality. Sometimes I look in the mirror and see only what I lack. So if I get through the manuscript it will be a miracle. But it will be enough. I've got to believe that He's not going to let me down now.
Thursday, September 15
7:56 PM Those of you who've been reading this blog for any length of time know that I have tried to share freely about God's hand and purposes in our suffering as human beings. In many ways cancer is a blessing. Once your life is touched by this disease, you see life as a gift, and every day of your life becomes precious. Cancer puts an urgency into your life. Cancer makes the everyday unique, the ordinary magical, the commonplace one-of-a-kind. Once you can see death plainly, you begin to live.
God has continued to encourage me through my journey with cancer. One way He has done this is through the Becky Black Memorial Fund He inspired me to set up several months ago. It seemed only appropriate to start this fund as a way to honor Becky's memory and to thank UNC in Chapel Hill for their excellent care of Becky for four and a half years. Well, it is with great joy and excitement that I can announce that we have finished our task. Today the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center received a check for $25,000, earmarked for the cutting-edge research on endometrial cancer that Vickie Bae-Jump is doing in her lab.
I love these people. Yes, UNC is a functioning hospital where cancer patients are treated. But it's the people that make it the special place it is. Look at your own life. The most satisfying parts of your story have always involved people. And so I want to say "thank you" to all the people who have meant so much to me over the past few months.
I once saw a sign that said, "Things go better with Jesus." It was a takeoff on the old Coke ads. But Jesus isn't the coke that complements our hamburger and fries. He is the meal. I don't know how to say this without sounding like a nut case, but Becky's going to heaven makes me want to go there too. Her death lifted my eyes from this world and set them on the life that is to come. Heaven has become my passion. I know many of you feel the same way.
Until then, folks, let's love God and follow Jesus. Really, nothing else matters. If you ever doubt what to do, just love others like Jesus loved them. And maybe, just maybe, our faith and love can motivate people to love others actively and practically. A Christian faith like that speaks louder than words.
11:30 AM I love a good hole in the wall restaurant and none is better than the Packhouse in Halifax, VA, located on Hwy. 501. It's definitely worth visiting for its delicious food and country ambiance. I met there this morning with one of my doctoral candidates who lives in Lynchburg.
It's all part of the mentorship I do with my students. We chatted over our excellent breakfasts in a relaxed atmosphere. Check out the Packhouse the next time you're in the area. As far as I'm concerned, "hole in the wall" is a total compliment!
Wednesday, September 14
6:52 PM This and that ...
1) Lunch with one of my fine doctoral students yesterday.
2) The latest pic of Peyton ("Mr. Blue Eyes"). He's growing up!
3) My thanks to my colleague and friend Ken Keathley for his guest lecture today in our NT class on the subject, "Why Adam and Eve Matter."
It was a fine talk. It's incredible to think just how many people deny that Adam even existed let alone that there was a fall. Ken, by the way, is the co-author (with Mark Rooker) of an excellent book on human origins (and other topics) called 40 Questions About Creation and Evolution.
Gotta boogey. Time to wash clothes and cook supper!
Tuesday, September 13
7:14 AM Just took this pic from my front porch. Every bit as spectacular as the sunrises I saw all last week in Hawaii.
6:54 AM Yesterday I was reminded: I climb because I love it. That's a really good feeling. It's something I do where I get exactly what I want in return. For some climbs it takes less than an hour. With other climbs, I prefer the longer haul. And the height doesn't really matter. Last July I climbed the Zermatt Klettersteig (Via Ferrata).
It was the most difficult and (I think) satisfying climb I've ever done. It took me 4 hours to ascend only 1,800 vertical feet. But climbing is not just about summiting. It's about effort, it's about flow, it's about finding your equilibrium so that you can climb higher and smarter and more efficiently the next time. So be forewarned: The first time you go climbing or rock scrambling, it might change your life. When you attack a mountain you discover all kinds of things about yourself:
Climbing is all about vertical movement. And it assumes several forms and shapes: bouldering, ice climbing, indoor climbing, and my favorite -- mountaineering. Mountaineering itself requires lots of skills that I am constantly developing: rock scrambling, downclimbing, snow climbing with crampons, safety skills, etc. Mountaineering is all about challenge and perseverance. Is it dangerous? Sure. But, like anything else in life, climbing is only as safe as the person doing it. For me, climbing begins in the parking lot and doesn't end until I'm off the summit and safely back at the car. When climbing, life is brought down to the basics: skill, experience, and lots of effort. At times you have to push through your doubts and fears (like I did on the Klettersteig). At other times you have to be willing to back off when you sense the conditions aren't right (like I did on the Matterhorn in July). At all times, you will need a guide with enough experience and training to get you through the really hard places.
That said, I really don't want to talk about climbing or even photograph it. I want to just do it. This mountain is my first goal for next summer -- the Riffelhorn (9,603 feet).
I plan to climb it with my expert guide in preparation for the rock scrambling I'll need to do on the Matterhorn. Whether or not I summit any of these mountains, one thing is sure. Climbing is a lot healthier than sitting on my okole watching other people accomplishing their goals. And I try to remember that it's not the mountain we are conquering but ourselves. Climbing is ultimately an adventure, as this sign in a store window in Zermatt reminded me:
It says, "You feel it too: Adventure lies on the other side of the known ways." Yesterday's climb was an adventure. My quads held up like champs and I never got tired. Other than a small blister on one of my toes, the climb didn't hurt at all. Most important of all, the climb was fun -- which is a pretty good feeling given all of the activities I've been involved in lately.
Sometimes I feel like I'm living an adventure movie.
Monday, September 12
5:12 PM Fair warning: This post has LOTS of pics.
Central Virginia is my absolute favorite part of the state. I'm talking about the fabulous Lynchburg-Charlottesville region, where farms abound and where there are hiking trails galore. So off I went to the Blue Ridge to commemorate my marriage to Becky 40 years ago. My destination? The Humpback Rocks Trail just outside of Afton, VA -- a hike of about one mile to the top. But you know me. I much prefer loop trails to out and backers, so I decided to piece together a custom hike that combined the best of both worlds: The Humpback Trail and the famous Appalachian Trail. All in all, the hike took me about two and a half hours from start to finish, and though I didn't rush I made the summit in less than half an hour. Please note: This is a strenuous trail. It requires good hiking boots (not just hiking shoes) and trekking poles (at least if you want to save the wear and tear on your knees). Also, be aware that the Humpback Trail is marked by blue blazes whereas the AT has white blazes (which also appear less frequently). It's really easy to get lost unless you pay attention to these markers. Once you get to the top of the mountain, there are two peaks you can scramble up. I was by myself for about 15 minutes when another hiker showed up. We chatted and then snapped each other's photos as keepsakes (and to prove our machismo). I really hope you will consider doing this hike. As I said, you could do it in less than three hours. The view from the top was superb (see video below), and the difficulty of the hike only adds to the fun.
Yesterday, on my drive north, I decided to stay at yet another Airbnb (as I did in Hawaii and Geneva). The house was in a very quiet and rural neighborhood and I had the entire upstairs to myself -- including a nice bedroom suite with a half bath and an entire bath on the same floor. The owners, Anne and Malcolm, live there with their puppy Scamp who is just adorable. They were wonderful hosts. Anne was even kind enough to make me breakfast this morning (uber-delicious natural pancakes with real butter and real syrup). And don't be surprised when Malcolm takes out his Bible and reads a chapter from the Psalms over breakfast. Delightful!
Yesterday I also paid a return visit to one of my favorite historical sites in Virginia -- Jefferson's Monticello ("Little Mountain"). As you'll see in the following pics, the weather both days was superb and perfect for photography (even if all you have is an iPhone). This region would be fantastically gorgeous when the leaves are changing their colors. (I think fall is my favorite season of the year.)
On to the pictures!
1) Here's the quiet and serene home where I stayed last night. The house is called Twin Oaks, and here is the link in case you're up this way and want a superb place to spend the night. Sure beats a hotel any day.
2) Malcolm, Anne, and the ruler of the roost.
3) My cozy upstairs room with complete privacy.
4) I snapped this pic just before taking an excellent 40-minute guided tour of this famous house. Can you believe the weather?
5) In downtown Charlottesville enjoying my anniversary dinner last night: chicken-fried steak, Bec's favorite.
6) Time to hike!
7) A bird's-eye-view.
8) I think I made pretty good time on the ascent seeing that I am an old fossil.
9) And here's my descent along the AT.
10) As I said, you have a choice of either just doing the Humpback Rocks hike or combining your hiking with a portion of the Appalachian Trail. If you've got the time, I strongly recommend doing the loop.
11) The Humpback Rocks Trail is very well marked with these blue blazes.
12) It starts out easy enough but, believe me, it gets harder.
13) As I was saying ....
14) Seems every trail I've been on lately has had steps near the summit.
15) Time for the final push.
16) Made it!
17) Enjoying the view.
18) One last peak to go.
19) Man, I think I found my mojo!
20) Enjoy the view with me.
Sunday, September 11
9:42 AM "Life is amazing. And then it's awful. And then it's amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful, it's ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary." L. R. Knost.
Last week in Hawaii was amazing. My heart practically stopped at the incredible views I was privileged to witness. The past two and a half years have been like that, full of beauty and joy and smiles and laughter. The "highs" have been there -- literally.
These past two and a half years have also been filled with unspeakable pain, fear, sorrow, and doubt.
And they've been everything in between.
This is called life.
Today started out just like any other day. But it's not. It's my 40th anniversary. I'd be flat out lying to you if I told you I was okay. But when I look past the scars I see His face, the face of the One who asks me to be content in every situation and to trust Him in plenty or in want. I'm going out of town. This old house is just too big and too quiet for me on a day like this. I'll do what every self-respecting widower does and go out and climb a mountain, one I've actually never climbed before. Because amidst the darkness, a light is shining. Hope and healing are present to those who trust in God's unwavering love. So now you know how to pray. Pray that I will trust God and not only thank Him but rejoice that this is where He has led me because He loves me, wholly and unreservedly. Becky was an amazing woman. If I live to be a hundred years old I will carry her memory with me. I know God is using her death to mold me and shape me into a better Dave. He is teaching me so many lessons. There is life after death and joy in the midst of sorrow. Healing can come to even the most broken lives.
I think that's what L. R. Knost was speaking about. Life is amazing and awful and everything in between. And so anywhere I am, whether in the exhilarating climes of Hawaii or the Alps or driving along the mundane country lanes of Virginia, I should be running towards my Savior. If that's the only legacy I leave in this world, it will be enough.
P.S. Here's the other GoPro I wanted to show you. The trail was a disaster -- muddy and slippery. But the view at the top? Wow.
Saturday, September 10
5:56 PM First off, just got hay up. It was lots of fun. It threatened to rain but the storm decided to pass us to the north. Like I've mentioned before, this always amazes me -- how God keeps our hay dry when we're baling. To say I'm grateful is a huge understatement.
Second of all, as promised here's a GoPro of the Diamond Head Trail.
It's a great hike -- very crowded but very enjoyable. I set a personal best by topping out in just over 18 minutes. The trail is completely paved so even the unfittest person can do it with breaks. I hiked to the top and then jogged part of the way back down. The trail begins on a wide pathway that leads to a series of switchbacks and then to the first set of stairs. From there you climb through a tunnel and climb another set of stairs before reaching the WW2-era bunkers at the top. Once at the summit you are treated to a fabulous 360-degree view of southeastern Oahu, including Waikiki, Hawaii Kai, and Koko Head. Rails and fences make the experience as safe as possible. Be sure to try it on your next trip to the Islands!
2:26 PM Well, I've been officially on the "mainland" since 6:30 this morning. I let the beach in Kailua do what it does best -- heal. I use surfing to clear my head and quiet my mind. And the waves? Well, last weekend they were huge thanks to the two hurricanes (I forget their names) that skirted the Islands. In addition, I got two great hikes in: Diamond Head and the Kuliouou Ridge Trail. Most importantly, I helped kick off our Greek class in Kahuluu. Usually when I get back from a trip like this I want to stay home for a while, but my time in Hawaii has actually reignited my Wanderlust -- my desire to travel and see the world. It's part of the crazy microadventures the Lord has me on these days. At any rate, I'll post a few pics now and maybe a couple of GoPros later of my hikes. I am beyond stoked for my trip to the Rockies in a couple of weeks. I can't imagine a greater contrast from the beaches of Hawaii.
Bye for now!
1) Waikiki Beach from the top of Diamond Head.
2) "My" beach.
3) Korean kalbi.
4) Atop the Kuliouou Ridge.
5) Our Greek class included a homeschooling family.
6) One of a thousand sunrise photos I took at Kailua Beach.
7) Presenting a couple of my books to the Kailua Public Library.
8) "His splendor was like the sunrise. Rays flashed from His hand, where His power was hidden" (Hab. 3:4).
Thursday, September 1
6:36 PM Here's a book of mine.
It was open on my desk as Dr. Welty spoke about the Christian apologist yesterday. It's a book I hold very dear. It desperately needs to be rebound but I can't part with it. It's a treasured friend. It's always there when I need it to offer guidance and support. It's the best book I've ever read, and I've read a lot of books. It answers life's most important questions: who we are and why we're here. Favorite books are like favorite people. They change you. They are guides on the path. They often have a great deal of experience, much more than you do. They both awaken and cement our self-awareness. They allow us to enter other minds. Books have a critical place in my life, but no book has affected me more than this one. It's fun teaching other people how to read and understand this book. I thank God for this book.
7:52 AM Ah, September. Big month. Trips to Hawaii, Alabama, and Colorado. Celebrate my 40th anniversary. Present the Becky Black Memorial Fund check to UNC Hospital. Fall begins. (I'm ready.) Running My Race appears. (You'll love the cover.)
And good news: The blood work from my annual physical came back yesterday. Everything is good, including my PSA. Vitamins B and D are normal. Liver and kidney functions normal. Cholesterol and blood sugar normal. Late in life, I still have energy and even have new goals. I almost have to laugh, like Abraham and Sarah did when they had a child in their dotage. They named their son Isaac -- "God has made laughter for me." They probably thought it was a joke when God told them they would have a baby at their age. I've done my share of mourning in the past two years. But there's also been a lot of laughter. "A cheerful heart is good medicine" wrote Solomon. May there always be laughter in our lives. In spite of all the pain we have known.
Time to lift!