June 2020 Blog Archives
Monday, June 29
7:04 PM Hope you all have a wonderful Fourth of July week. Mine started off with a 5 mile walk and a 30-minute swim. For all its flaws, I love living in these United States. My favorite classes at the University of Hawai'i were U.S. History 1-2. They were taught back to back during the summer session of 1973, the summer of the Watergate hearings. Watergate has been called America's most infamous address. The cast of characters was unforgettable, from Pat Buchanan to Ben Bradlee. I found the hearings highly entertaining. After all, what better way to study U.S. history than by watching U.S. history unfold before your very eyes. I recall having absolutely the best prof for those two classes. He never used notes when he lectured. Yet he kept us spellbound. And his exams -- oh my, his exams. Four essay questions. That was it! That pattern would eventually set the theme for the way I do testing in my own New Testament classes -- forget the multiple guess questions and those fill in the blanks. Let's do a deep dive!
Tomorrow, Lord willing, I'm off for places north -- meaning Central Virginia, Maryland, and perhaps even the great commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In Central Virginia I hope to reconnoiter a couple of future hiking trials. In Maryland it's my plan to stop by the Miller Cornfield on the Antietam Battlefield (my ancestors on my father's side were German Baptists named Miller who "lived on a farm near Antietam Creek"). In William Penn's Forest ("Penn's Sylvania"), I'd like to do something I've dreamed about doing for years now -- biking the entire Gettysburg National Park. Two million people visit Gettysburg every year, and most of them follow the National Park Service's suggested auto tour. I plan to do the same thing except on my road bike (wearing a mask, of course, and maintaining proper social distancing). I'm also planning on spending a few hours in the town itself, which was part of a major retreat on the first day of combat. Many people drive through town without realizing that. Yesterday I began rereading a fantastic biography of George Meade, who's been called the Rodney Dangerfield ("I get no respect") of the Battle of Gettysburg. (If you're scratching your head wondering, "Who in the world is George Meade?" you're proving the point.) So much history. So much to see.
As I said, these are my tentative plans, but I'm eager to get started. Meanwhile, God bless America. God bless our great nation. God bless the families of our fallen soldiers. God bless those who've lost a loved one during this awful pandemic. And may God bless all who are looking to the Prince of Peace to bring about healing to our nation. Maranatha.
3:08 PM Harvest time!
8:24 AM Hi folks. In Hebrews 13 this morning. The amount of literary artistry in this chapter is mindboggling.
I'm a big fan of the didactic value of rhetorical devices. Reading the Bible means reading a story and then responding to that story and its literary devices as we should. However, we should not merely highlight rhetorical devices as mere esthetic patterns. Rather, we should work hard to see how they function to advance the message of the Bible -- how they contribute to making the Bible a "word of exhortation."
Speaking of a "word of exhortation," that's the very expression used in 13:22.
Note the word play: parakalō, then 8 words later, paraklēseōs. This is called paronomasia and is nicely brought out in Lenski's "I urge you to bear with this word of urging." As I said, mindboggling.
Well, I tried to think of some fancy way to end this blog post, but all the rhetorical devices I could think of seemed inappropriate. So I'll just end by quoting my favorite SNL character: "Well, isn't that special?"
Sunday, June 28
8:42 PM Born today.
Welcome to Rosewood Farm.
8:10 PM Hello bloggers and bloggerettes! I was humbled to have been invited to speak to the Christian student organization at Princeton University in May. Obviously the trip had to be postponed to next year. There is a beautiful grassroots movement arising among the university students of our land. Thousands of young people are abandoning the Christendom paradigm of the church in order to become more authentic followers of Jesus. The irony is that, just as millions of American evangelicals are running away from science, many non-evangelicals are running away from it too. There are many reasons for this. One is the professionalization of the academy, beginning in the late 19th century. Biblical scholarship became the exclusive domain of graduate schools and seminaries. Another issue that divided evangelicals concerned the "scientific" approach to the Bible. Many evangelicals of the 20th century objected to methods that had originated in German scholarship. These methods were thought to call the authority, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture into question. However, believing critics began to accept these newer methods without their underlying presuppositions. They found both insights and errors in biblical scholarship. They called for renewed honesty in dealing with critical issues in the biblical text and began to integrate their findings into their faith journey. I believe that if evangelical Christianity is to shed its anti-intellectual and anti-scientific trappings, it also has to shed its isolated and divisive politics, since the former is the direct consequence of the latter. My professors in Basel combined heartfelt devotion to Christ with a love of theology. They practiced a rigorous intellectual life and embraced cutting edge science. I believe it is indeed possible to enter the intellectual centers of society (like Princeton) without compromising the Gospel and the authority of Scripture. God, after all, is the author of both science and the Bible. I'm not advocating for an intellectual elite or arguing that the life of the mind is more important than that of the heart. The effort to think Christianly is simply an effort to take the sovereignty and providence of God over the world seriously. By contrast, the trend of political activism moves people to shut down their minds, to reject public discourse, and to drive a wedge between Christian thinking and Christian doing. As Christians, we are called to love the Lord our God with all our minds. At the very least, this would involve an effort to think across the whole spectrum of modern academia (history, philosophy, science, linguistics, politics, medicine, ethics) within a specific Christian framework.
All this and more is what I would have spoken about at Princeton. The mind, the arts, the sciences -- all these spheres are created by God and sustained by his glory. A vision of education that pits Christian intellectual inquiry against "secular" intellectual inquiry will only deepen the chasm between the church and the world.
Blessings on you all, and keep growing, thinking, and loving!
Saturday, June 27
8:24 PM So glad my daughter's chickens like me.
3:54 PM If y'all love wooden trestles, you will LOVE the Virginia Capital Trail.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Last night I decided to bike the world famous Appomattox River Greenway Trail.
It's about as well known as Humphrey Bogart is to my grandkids. Anyhoo, I was finally able to get out on this pleasant trail that runs along the Appomattox River.
It's very short, as you can see.
This morning, however, I left the inconsequential trails behind me. It was CAP TRAIL time (again)! This time I started at the trailhead in Richmond.
I got the very last parking space.
You would LOVE this trail because, well, what's not to love about it? It begins with a spectacular view of the James River.
Then it passes below the retro lofts of South Richmond. (I would hate to see what these condos cost.)
Best of all, it will give you a solid workout. My goal today was to bike the "Varina Phase" of the trail, from Richmond to the Malvern Hill Battlefield.
A mere 17 miles later and I was there.
My mind cannot even begin to imagine the carnage that occurred here on July 1, 1862.
Today it's a peaceful tourist stopover.
(No, I did not use my camera to take this photo. The guy used his iPhone and then texted me the pic. I never got closer than 20 feet from him. And yes, I do wear a mask whenever people are close by, even when I'm outdoors exercising.)
My total distance today was 33.66 miles. (I stopped at a convenience store after 26.36 miles for some kiwi juice. Hence the two sets of data.)
I don't know what all of this means. Am I becoming a cycling fanatic? Are there other "famous" trails in Virginia awaiting discovery? One thing seems certain: I'm beginning to get back into a regular rhythm of training, thanks be to God. I might even start jogging this week. I say that humbly. I just know that every time I think I have life all figured out, along comes something to remind me that I'm not in control. That's the thing. Two months ago I couldn't bike. Now I can feel my strength and conditioning slowly but surely returning. Just as we can't always anticipate the bad stuff, we can't always anticipate the good stuff. Compared to most people who have ever lived on this planet, we are living better lives than they could have ever imagined. The people who accept that life won't always be perfect are happier than the ones who fight it. Blessed are the flexible, as they say, for they won't be bent out of shape. Thanks so much, Lord, for allowing me to get out and about this weekend. Your creation is so beautiful. Even the parts we mess up through fighting and warfare.
The sum total of our job here on this earth is to glorify God. How do we do this? Just as Jesus did. "I glorified you on earth by completing the work you gave me to do." Sometimes that work meant getting away by himself to reconnect with his Father. Cycling helps me to do just that. "Let the beauty of the Lord be upon us, and establish the work of our hands." If the work --whatever it is -- is soaked in prayer, the beauty will be there, and the work will be established.
Friday, June 26
8:15 AM Here are some pics from my last marathon.
It was the famous Chicago marathon in October, 2019. Seems like ages ago now.
This weekend was to have been my 17th marathon. What do you do when things don't go "your" way? When something you wanted has been denied? When something you worked hard for has failed to materialize? What shall we do?
"Have you ever commanded the morning to appear, or caused the dawn to rise in the east?" These are the words of the Lord in Job 38:12, which I meditated on this morning while watching the bright sun rise.
Lord, I have never done that. But you have. Nothing about this world is mysterious to you, even what we humans consider unfathomables. You are the Almighty -- Job's favorite word for you. I can't possibly understand everything you're trying to do in my life. But still, I seek the lessons you want to teach me during this pandemic. And that means I both pray and do. I ask you to do what I can't do. And I do what I can do. Like the woman with the broom who found her lost coin, I take heart and prepare for the day, finding, with the Psalmist, that "this day, as always, your decrees stand firm, and all things serve you" (Psalm 119:91).
Once again, Lord, I offer myself unreservedly into your hands, willing to lose myself for your sake, if only I may find safety where your Son found it, in the bosom of the Father.
Friend, God's sovereignty doesn't negate our responsibility. Trust him to do what you can't. Then obey him and do what you can.
Thursday, June 25
4:08 PM Hey guys. How's your day going? Lots of good things to report on this end. This arrived today. Very eager to read it.
Earlier I got in a wonderfully relaxing bike at the Neuse River Greenway.
I rode between Wake Forest and I-540. It drizzled, but not much. Very pleasant.
I had to go into the office today to drop off my new computer and web camera for IT to set up. While there I found this on my desk. Hmm, what surprises does it hold????
Finally, did you know that Crossway's new Greek Scripture Journal allows you to make handwritten notes between the lines of the Greek text?
Well, you do now. In fact, so jazzed am I about this new publication that I'm giving away all of these fascicles -- first come, first served. Simple write and request a copy (note: 1-2 Thessalonians, Philippians, and Acts are already taken). If you do write, list your top three choices as I may not be able to accommodate your first choice. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Offer closes 8:00 pm Saturday (June 27). Don't forget to include your mailing address when you write (U.S. only.)
Welp, that's all I got for now. Off to spray Round Up!
7:44 AM This morning, as I sat on the porch and read my Bible and said my prayers, as I do every morning, it occurred to me that I've become quite the bird watcher. I recall reading how John Stott had a fascination with watching birds. He would quip that, after all, Christ commanded his followers to "Look at the birds of the air"! Early each morning I watch a swallow family in a nest almost directly above me.
Here mama swallow sits on her brood. She seems to be at peace. I wish I could climb a ladder and check on her babies, but that is not my responsibility. Mr. and Mrs. Swallow have recourse to another kind of help. The Lord God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, cares for them. The birds on the farm, the goats, the donkeys -- all are dependent on the same Creator, and he loves them so much that he notices when one of them dies.
Are they aware of his provision? We don't know for sure. But are they worshipping God any less because of that? My Bible tells me that the future heavens and earth will be shared not only by angels and humans but by "all things, whether in heaven or earth" (Col. 1:20). The Bible seems to envision in some unimaginable way the entire created order awaiting the New Creation. In that day, will there be heard the song of the birds in praise to God? Let the apostle John answer that question: "Then I heard every created thing in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, all that is in them, crying out, 'Praise and honor, glory and might, to him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever!'" (Rev. 5:13). Thank you, Mrs. Swallow, for reminding me that God cares for all of his creatures. What a gift of amazing grace that I, too, am called to give him praise and honor and glory and might.
It was a pleasure joining you this morning in worship.
Wednesday, June 24
3:20 PM Hey folks! I'm super busy, so all I have time for is a brief travel update. Over the years I've discovered something interesting about myself. I like new things. I like to dabble in the novel. Hence my trip to the Richmond area for a couple of days' worth of biking and hiking. It started yesterday in historic Charles City Court House.
Some of the colonial-era buildings have even been restored to their original grandeur.
This is the site of the famous Virginia Capital Trail that runs between Virginia's first (Jamestown) and current (Richmond) capitals.
The entire distance is 52 miles, which I've biked twice nonstop. As I'm still rebuilding my aerobic base, yesterday's goal was much less ambitious, though I did manage a fairly decent distance.
This morning it was off to the Pocahontas State Park.
As you can see, the park was basically deserted.
I decided to hike the Bright Hope Trail. (Love that name.)
It's an easy distance that you can manage at a slow and steady pace.
On my drive home I grabbed some road-stand Georgia peaches.
Back on the farm, work awaited me. My yard needing mowing.
The water troughs needed cleaning.
And the list goes on. I'm not done yet with my chores but I needed a break. All in all, a very satisfying two days. Already seems like a blur.
P.S. Pocahontas State Park is a hidden gem. It has more hiking trails than I can count. Plus, if you enjoy biking, I counted at least 10 major mountain biking trails just for you. The next time I go up there I plan to take my bike. I just wish I lived closer.
Tuesday, June 23
12:10 PM My 5K walk this morning.
Now I'm heading up to the Richmond/Colonial Heights area to get some hiking done. Lord willing, I hope to visit two new sites: the Appomattox River Trail and the Pocahontas State Park. If I can also get a bike in at the Virginia Capital Trail, so much the better. As you can see, I have a lot of nervous energy that needs burning off this week. That's because I'm not able to run my marathon this weekend. As in all of life, you have the ideal, and then you have the reality. How things should go, and how things really go. What gets us in trouble (at least what gets me in trouble) is when we presume on the grace of God to make anything happen. That's the thing. Life is never about what we expect, is it? By the very same token, just as we can't anticipate the sad stuff, we can't always anticipate all the good things God sends our way. I mean, blessing after blessing after blessing. So it works both ways. We accept the bad with the good. And even the "bad" are things the Lord is working out for our good. Personally, I never want to give up on my high goals for life. But I also want to be able roll with the punches when things don't work out "my" way. And we don't have to look very far to see the hand of God in our lives. It's all about perspective. Are you missing out on a marathon, Dave? No, you're getting to discover some new trails instead.
Here's hoping you have a great day!
8:10 AM The very first term paper I wrote in seminary was on this prayer of Paul in 1 Thess. 5:23:
I ended up arguing that Paul was neither a trichotomist nor a dichotomist. His prayer, instead, emphasizes the idea of entirety. This morning during my intercessory prayer time, I thought about this text. It seems that we can divide all intercessory prayer needs into those having do with the spirit, the soul, or the body.
Spirit: our relation to God, to the heavenly realm
Soul: Our relation to the lower realm (affections, desires, goals, etc.)
Body: physical needs
The latter, of course, has a spiritual dimension to it. We can even worship God with our bodies, says Paul in Rom. 12:1. Calvin writes, "By bodies [Paul] means not only our skin and bones but the totality of which we are composed. He adopted this word that he might more fully designate all that we are, for the members of the body are instruments by which we carry out his purposes." The idea is that we are to offer ourselves up to God wholeheartedly -- spirit, soul, and yes, body -- so that our entire being may be a holy and living sacrifice, well-pleasing to him.
Whatever we are doing this day, may we put our whole heart and soul and strength into it. It is the joy of work well done that enables us to enjoy this life.
Monday, June 22
6:36 PM Hello friends. I hope you've had a great day thus far. This morning I got out of bed and thought to myself, "I'd really like to do another bike ride today. But where?" The answer in a minute.
When you pray, do you ever use the Scriptures? I need help in order to pray. And nothing helps me more than the Bible. This morning, long before I left for my bike ride, I spent time with the Lord in prayer, including intercessory prayer for people I know who need a special touch from him. Nothing helps me more when I'm praying for others than the Psalms and the prayers of the apostle Paul. Intercession, I think, is the hardest part of prayer. And so this morning I prayed the prayers of Paul in Colossians for my friends. Here was one of my prayers:
Here's another one:
And one more:
Aren't those wonderful prayers? I thought so too. And then it was off to the bike trail. For months I've wanted to try out a trail in Martinsville, VA called the Dick and Willie Passage.
It was once a part of the Danville and Western railroad, which had been affectionately dubbed "Dick and Willie." Today its part of the Smith River Trail System and connects Virginia Avenue with the Mulberry Creek Overlook.
It's absolutely perfect for cycling.
The ease of this track is ideal for your little ones who need to go at their own pace while offering plenty of excitement for seasoned riders. (Think speed on the downhills.)
Load up a backpack and stop for lunch at the trail's end.
The trail is mostly flat and very well signposted. However, be sure to bring along your bug spray. You will definitely need it. The Dick and Willie Trail is a really great biking trail. I hope you and your family will consider trying it out the next time you're traveling in southern Virginia.
Returning home I hopped on the mower, and the lawns are presentable again. Rain had prevented me from cutting the grass, and the farm was beginning to resemble a jungle. I'll never forgot jumping on the seat of a ride mower for the first time. We had just moved from Southern California to rural North Carolina. I mowed 5 acres at our little horse ranch outside of Oxford. There I was -- cut off from the world, thinking about nothing and about everything, taming the grass at Maple Ridge until it looked something akin to Fenway Park. I never mow without a sense of gratitude for the job -- for all the sweat, all the thinking I get done, all the memories I have of constructing this or that outbuilding. If you have a lawn, you have a mower. You have to cut grass? You get to cut grass!
That's all I got.
Sunday, June 21
5:34 PM I'm heading out to treat my grandkids to some ice cream. Before I do, a final reflection on this weekend's retreat. You may have noticed that in the past couple of months I haven't blogged as much about Becky as I normally do. I think I just needed a break. As you might suspect, however, she's never far from my mind. I know she's not far from some of yours too. Becky's death impacted me in so many ways, and still does. I am infinitely sad for all the years we will miss being together. I am also looking forward with great anticipation to the day when we will be reunited in heaven. There are blessings when you lose someone you love if you look for them. Not least perhaps is a renewed understanding of the impermanence of life and the need to not waste a single day the Lord gives us. I hate it that evil exists in this world. But it does. Still, because of the Lord's great mercy, it is possible to live in and even be enlarged by loss, even as we continue to feel its effects. The rawness I felt years ago has gradually given way to contentment and deep gratitude to God for the 37 years we enjoyed together as husband and wife. Loss is not simply an event. It is an experience that affects every part of you. I was reminded of that as I re-read C. S Lewis's classic A Grief Observed this weekend. (The prayer center's library also has an excellent Lewis collection.)
For some reason, this passage stood out.
When I get scared or lose my faith, I turn to the Lighthouse at the landfall -- the good, kind, giving, and loving Savior. I know him, and because I know him, I trust him. Perhaps you, like so many of us, have lost a loved one to death or divorce. Will you ever forget the emotional pain of your loss? Ask Lewis. The answer is no. There will always be a small kernel of grief that will emerge at the most unexpected times. This will last over many years. However, eventually you will be able to withdraw your emotional energy from your loved one and invest it elsewhere, like treating your grandkids to some ice cream. As you continue to remember, you will also continue to recover. Hope will replace despair. A smile will replace a frown. The ache in your heart will begin to subside. You will even laugh again.
There will be a lot of laughter tonight.
This is the way of grief.
2:32 PM Hey everyone, and Happy Father's Day to all you dads out there. Things are changing around here, but most things are not.
Meanwhile, my prayer retreat this weekend turned out to be exactly what I was looking for. It was a balm and a disinfectant at the same time.
I focused on what I have and not on what I don't have. And I practically had the entire place to myself. All rooms connect to this hallway. Silence is strictly observed.
The guest rooms are simple but adequate.
I spent most of my time in the library.
Here are some things I did:
1) I went for daily walks. The prayer center is situated on 140 wooded and peaceful acres.
When you're out in creation, something special always happens. Life opens up. You gain new perspective.
You appreciate the strength of your body. You see the magnificent gifts of nature all around you.
2) I made it more about God than about me. This is perhaps the single most important thing we can do if we want to feel better about ourselves. Thinking "If only I were as __________ as so-and-so" is self-defeating. If you're feeling envious, it's because you're wanting more in your life. Go and find it -- in Christ!
3) I disconnected. The prayer center has no internet connection to speak of. The only place you can check emails is in the foyer. It was the perfect place for a reset.
4) I read. A LOT. Their library is magnificent. It even has a section devoted to Thomas Merton.
His book Thoughts in Solitude ministered to my soul deeply.
To paraphrase Merton: "Lord, I have no idea where I'm going. I can't see the road ahead of me. I can't be certain how or when it will end. Nor do I really understand myself. The fact that I think I'm following you doesn't mean that I am. But I believe the desire to please you does in fact please you. I hope that I will not do anything apart from that desire."
5) I practiced an attitude of gratitude. I did an inventory of things that are going right in my life and the people I love and cherish. I teared up several times as I realized the good gifts God has given me. Since the believer can't live in a place of fear about the future, he or she lives in a place of gratitude about the present. Sunrises. Sunsets. Good books. Hot showers. Air conditioning. Birds singing. An evening thunderstorm. A cup of tea. The kindness of people. My family. Healthy grandkids. A good job. Fantastic students. Giving thanks is such a humbling exercise. Sometimes we have to go through the bad to really appreciate the good. As Merton writes, "We cannot see things in perspective until we cease to hug them to our own bosom."
6) I spent lots of time in the Scriptures, or what I'm calling here the "Script" since the Bible wasn't given for our information but for our transformation; it's a blueprint or script for Christian living. The Psalms especially found their place in my heart this weekend. Have you noticed how most of David's psalms begin with a sigh and end with a song? That's called praise. Without a heart of praise, it's easy to be oblivious to the thousands of evidences of God's care. So we must chose to trust him. Faith is a conscious choice, even in the absence of a miracle. The Script puts it this way: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and don't lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths." Does God care for us? "No!" cries our circumstances. When David cried out, "I lie prone in the dust; I can't rest for misery," he wasn't engaging in mere self-pity. His was a candid, realistic assessment of the truth of his situation. But he also knew where he could find strength to carry on.
Thank God for the Script -- specific and practical instruction, reproof when it's needed, correction when we go wrong, and instruction in right living. The Bible is more than accurate. It's relevant. My plea is that we give the Script a first (rather than last) hearing, taking our bearings there. I suspect if we start there, it will provide a more direct path to peace than whatever manmade opinions seem to apply to our situation. Let us not forget this: The Script does not show us everything we might want to know. But it does show us all we need to know for life and godliness.
Thanks for coming along with me on my weekend journey!
Friday, June 19
1:10 PM Both yesterday and today I got in a 5K walk at the local high school.
The goal is to gradually rebuild my aerobic base by keeping my heart rate within zones 1 and 2.
As for my plans for the weekend, I feel the Lord calling me to spend a few days with him in prayer and fasting at a private retreat center in North Carolina. Here are the books I've decided to take with me (in addition to my Bibles):
In her book On My Own, Diane Rehm (formerly of NPR) talks about the suffering, guilt, sadness, and anxiety of losing her husband. Her marriage lasted over 50 years. In Elisabeth Elliot's detailed biography of Amy Carmichael, we see how Amy truly believed that the highest spiritual standards should be sought for. Finally, in How Will You Measure Your Life? the author says we should decide what we stand for and then stand for it all the time. I've read all three books before but I can never read a good book only once. I usually try to take a personal retreat at least once a year. The purpose is reflection, planning, relaxation, and growth in spiritual discipline. Even when you love where you live, you just need a break from the routine of life sometimes.
Where do I go? It's always to a place of solitude where you have space for yourself. It's always an overnight stay with at least one full day of uninterrupted Bible reading and prayer. It's a time when you hope to regroup and refresh so that you'll be stronger than ever. Moses was shown the blueprint for the tabernacle "on the mountain" (Exod. 25:40). That describes the solitary place of communion with God. My problem is that all too often I draw up my own plans and then politely ask God to sign on the dotted line. How much heartache could I have avoided in life had I first inquired of the Lord, "What would you have me to do?" We must constantly come back to the Source, mustn't we, the only one who can satisfy our thirst. I know I have to do this. Jesus thirsted so that we might never thirst. He was forsaken so that we might never be forsaken. But it starts with being conscious of our need of God -- deeply conscious. It is truly the key to life and happiness. Maybe you feel the same way. At any rate, I'm trying to learn how to stop controlling things that are driving me crazy the more I try to control them.
My friend, accept where you are in life. This may mean letting go of your expectations of how everything should be. And remember that everyone struggles, no matter what you read on Facebook. I think we all need to find peace in who we are in Christ and own it. Even if we don't live up to the ideal we find in our social media feeds, we can acknowledge that in him we are okay and enough. Here's hoping I can regain some important perspective during my retreat this weekend. After all, I'm 68, so I guess it's about time I stopped messing around and became an old sage.
Thursday, June 18
5:50 PM My daughters have been teaching my how to cook.
And supplying me with fresh produce.
Ok. I'm spoiled.
Wednesday, June 17
6:45 PM Countdown 1945 continues to enthrall. On page 19 we read that the pilot of the Enola Gay, General Tibbetts, took his first flight in a biplane at the age of 12. From the second the plane took off, he was hooked on flying. "Nothing else would satisfy me, once I was given the exhilarating sample of the life of an airman," he would later tell friends.
What has God called you to do and be? What do you do that makes you feel his pleasure? What kind of work brings you the most God-given, Christ-saturated joy? These are questions we as Christians have every right to ask ourselves. And be sure of this: The term "call" applies just as much to non-church work as it does to church work. Student friend, I pray that God will help you discern his calling and guidance in the area of your vocation. Just be sure not to derive your self-worth from your job!
6:25 PM Thank you, Amazon Prime. I'm looking forward to getting Robert Gates' new book.
11:56 AM I'm loving Chris Wallace's new book. So much to enjoy. If you don't mind, I think I'll begin sharing with you some of the treasures this book holds, starting with a quote from Roosevelt's speech on December 8, 1941:
There are three times when adjectives are absolutely necessary: to clarify, to describe, and to transport your audience in their imagination to another place or time. Notice how Roosevelt uses adjectives to do all three things:
Ah, the importance of descriptors like adjectives in our everyday lives. They allow our readers to have a fuller picture of what we're trying to describe. What would we do without them?
P.S. Here I discuss an important adjective that Paul uses to describe church leaders in 1 Tim. 3:2. See #8.
8:38 AM Good morning all. Dave here, coming to you from a soggy southern Virginia. We've gotten 4 inches of rain since midnight and more is on the way. Flooding is expected so I don't plan to be outdoors much today. I hope you're doing well during this crazy pandemic of ours. You know more than anyone how many changes have come your way, changes maybe in terms of your employment or your financial status or even ways you look at life or the way you relate to God. One of the things I'm doing is checking in with him every morning to see if he has a word for me for that day. This morning I was in Philippians chapter 4. As you know, Philippians is probably my favorite letter from the apostle Paul. I've written tons on this letter, teach it every year in my Greek classes, and consider it a manual for Christian living as we learn to live our lives in our own prisons. I've got two takeaways from today's reading that I'd like to share with you. I think it will be an encouraging word, but if you haven't had your quiet time yet maybe you should click out of this website and spend a few moments with the Lord. We all have a deep longing to hear from him in these days of isolation, don't we? I believe the Holy Spirit can speak to us in the right way and in a way that will impact our lives. It's easy to feel overwhelmed when the changes are too great to tolerate or when the mountain is just too tall to climb. I imagine that's what Paul was thinking when he wrote to the Philippians. So for what it's worth, here are two things I took away from my reading in chapter 4 this morning. My practice, by the way, is to read the text in one of my English translations first.
Then I compare the English with the Greek and you know what? I often find that whatever English version I'm using does an excellent job of convening the meaning of the original in a way that ordinary people can understand it.
Here's my first takeaway:
You say, "Where's that in Philippians 4?" Right there in verse 8. Here Paul writes:
Now, where do you suppose you will find things that are true and good and right and pure and lovely? Well, one place you won't find them is on social media. The news media knows nothing about the things of God. Instead, what you will find there is malignant unbelief that carries the seeds of sin and unhappiness. One example I think many of us can relate to is this: it is easily possible to criticize some servant of God on social media until we come dangerously close to ascribing his or her ministry to the devil. Isn't this so? Of course, we think we are only being "discerning" when we post that tweet or blog. But did you know that our "discernment" may in fact indicate a growing disease of the spirit that could become an incurable malignancy? Friend, we don't need this. We just don't. Of course, not all social media is bad. I use it to publish a blog and to keep up with people I normally don't see. Let's just remember to keep a balance between real life and the online world.
Here was my second takeaway from today's reading:
In chapter 4, verses 10-20, Paul is taking the time to say thank you for the gifts he received from the Philippians. Their church was evidently the only one that became partners with Paul in the matter of "giving and receiving." In fact, Paul says in verse 16, "Even when I was over in Thessalonica you sent help twice." Yes, Paul was truly appreciative of the help that came through the hands of their emissary (apostolos) Epaphroditus. But notice what Paul was quick to add: "Not that I was ever in need. I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little. I can live on almost nothing or everything. I've learned the secret of contentment in every situation, whether it be a full stomach or an empty one, plenty or want." And then he adds these marvelous words, which many of you I'm sure have committed to memory:
Isaiah puts it this way: "Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint." My friend, God does not guarantee the absence of struggles during this time of pandemic. But he does pledge to help us through it. Yes, we're experiencing a bruising of the soul that at times seems unbearable. Jesus promises us something that no one else dare envision or imagine -- that he would be present in our lives and grant us his strength to face every trial that comes our way. That's why I believe we can be confident that God will use this mess for good. He hasn't forgotten us. He's chosen to train us through this time. Trust his training in your life.
One final thought and I'll let you go. Was Paul appreciative of the Philippians' gift? Of course he was. But do you know what made him even happier? Look at verse 17:
Paul is thinking ahead to the Day when we will all stand before the bema seat of Christ. There, even the smallest act of generosity on behalf of the Lord will be rewarded. I recall during one of our many trips to Ethiopia, Becky was passing out reading glasses to believers in a small village. All of a sudden one of the local leaders, not himself a Christian, came and demanded a pair. Becky welcomed him warmly, had him sit down, and then gave him a pair of glasses. To check to see whether the strength was correct, she had him read from the Bible in Amharic: Rom. 5:1, then Rom. 8:1, etc. Imagine seeing a not-yet believer reading to himself the Good News of Jesus Christ! When he left that day we never did find out if he had made a commitment to follow Christ. But one thing is certain: Somebody in America gave us one U.S. dollar to purchase that pair of reading glasses from Dollar Tree. And even though we don't know who that person was, God does, and great is their reward in heaven. My friend, maybe God wants all of us to be more generous during this time of separation. The needs are all around us. When we give to the needs of others, Paul says these are "sweet-smelling sacrifices that please God well" (v. 18).
Well, if you've gotten this far, thanks for reading and thanks for your commitment to follow Jesus through this time of crisis. We're all facing our share of giants these days, and we can all find courage in this letter of Paul to the Philippians. I know I am!
Tuesday, June 16
4:12 PM Since I'm a huge fan of historical books I was glad to see this came today.
It's the story of how America designed, built, and detonated the first atomic bomb. Imagine this: Roosevelt dies and Truman knows nothing about the Manhattan Project!
Nice read for a rainy day.
Monday, June 15
1:38 PM Nothing is worse than a sports injury. Being forced to stop running races has been a bitter pill to swallow. I've had plenty of time over the past two months to think about why running is so important to me. Why does no other activity seem to be able to fill that void? I think it all started after I lost Becky to cancer. Running was the way (or at least one of the ways) I coped with her loss. For me, it represented many of the positive traits I saw in her life as it slowly ebbed out of her body -- perseverance, fortitude, grace, strength, consistency, joy, accomplishments (even tiny ones). In the meantime, I've taken up knitting. Just kidding of course. But there's one thing I have learned to do in a more consistent way than I believe I've ever done before in my life: Striving together in prayer for others. I desire to be a faithful prayer partner with those in my life who need special prayer. My daily intercession list is now about a mile long. Each name has a specific request or requests written beside it. These prayers are needed NOW. Prayer has no magical power in and of itself, of course. It's not a talisman or a rabbit foot. Still, hell staggers under the weight of a powerful prayer. Prayer is potent because the One we pray to is an OmniPOTENT God.
In Hebrews 13 (yes, back to this marvelous chapter for a moment) did you notice how the author requests prayer for himself in verse 18? He obviously felt a deep need to be prayed for. His request for prayer is similar to those in Paul's letters (Rom. 15:30; 2 Cor. 1:11-12; Eph. 6:19; Col. 4:3-4; 1 Thess 5:25; 2 Thess. 3:1). Here in Heb. 13:18, the earnestness of the author's request is remarkable. He pleads with his readers to pray with him and for him. This was not a casual request. Prayer is often described as "wrestling" in the New Testament. It can be very intense. Mighty needs require mighty prayers. When I have my season of intercessory prayer in the evening, I always have my Bible open. I often find myself praying the prayers of the psalmist or of the apostle Paul for those I'm lifting up. I also have my phone handy. If I've just prayed for you, don't be surprised if you get a text message from me telling you how much I love you, how I'm thinking about you, and how I'm taking you and your needs to the throne of grace so that you might find God's mercy and grace in your time of greatest need. I imagine Jesus is getting tired of listening to me cry out to him so often. Actually, that's one thing he never gets tired of! God notices the humble heart, the injured body, the wounded soul. Let God finish his work in you, my friend, and I'll try to do the same. Yes, we'll have some good days, and we'll have some bad days. But we truly believe that God is in "all the days" (this is literally the Greek of Matt. 28:20 -- "Remember: I am with you all the days"). With God's help and with each other's prayers and encouragement, we can be anxious for nothing. Even while we wait, he is at work. In due time, that is, at the right time, we'll get through this.
8:55 AM Another takeaway from Hebrews 13. The author writes, "Pray for us," then adds, "I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon." We don't know what kept the author from visiting his readers. But it's obvious what he is saying, isn't it? He feels a very strong need to be reunited in person with the people of God. What pastor in recent days hasn't shared this longing? You have prayed more and more for an eventual reunion. You've desired to be with the members of your congregation as soon as possible. We can't go it alone, church. We need each other. During this pandemic we must fight against the trend of isolationism, as though we could live our lives apart from our brothers and sisters. God designed us to know and to be known by others. We need others to weep with us. We need others to call us out. We need others to celebrate with us. Together, we need to "admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, and help the weak" (1 Thess. 5:14; if you're interested, you can see my study of this passage here).
Dear friend, I hope you never become comfortable with the idea that you can live your Christian life in isolation from other believers. Thank God we are finally beginning to meet again as the body of Christ. Your pastors have longed for this day for many months. I trust you have too.
8:38 AM My reading this morning was in one of my favorite chapters in the Bible, Hebrews 13.
There are two things we must do as followers of Jesus, and the church must lead out in this matter (see verse 16):
Being a Christian consists of more than loving God with our entire heart, soul, strength, and mind. It also consists of loving our neighbor as ourselves. The earliest believers in Jerusalem illustrated their love for God through (Acts 2:37-47):
But they also showed their love for God through showing love for their brothers and sisters by sharing whatever they had. In fact, "All the believers met together constantly and shared everything with each other, selling their possessions and dividing with those in need" (Acts 2:44). Thus the 7th mark of a New Testament church is sacrificial living. Love for God is always matched by love for others. They are two sides of the same coin. They always go hand in hand. So if we say that we love God and see a brother or sister in need and then don't help them, how can God's love be within us? "Little children," writes John (1 John 3:18), "let us stop just saying we love people; let us really love them, and show it by our actions." This is what the impoverished Macedonians did. Writes Paul (2 Cor. 8:3-4):
Fellow saints, how easy it is to praise God in the Sunday service and neglect our ministry to the needy. Praise must be put into practice by relieving the needs of the poor. In fact, the author of Hebrews sees our deeds of mercy and love as sacrifices of praise. Y'all, we need so many things today, but perhaps most of all we need a afresh awakening of social responsibility. We need to be people who do a lotta listening, a lotta learning, a lotta loving, a lotta living out the Gospel we proclaim.
Lord God, come and make us givers, not takers. For when the needy are helped and the oppressed are defended and the blind see and the deaf hear, will not many have to marvel and confess that Jesus the Nazarene is surely among us in all his saving power?
Sunday, June 14
4:36 PM Amazing rendition of "Amazing Grace."
Saturday, June 13
4:05 PM I have really lost my running base these past two months. I do miss those longer weekend runs. Ya just gotta keep moving, however, so I will to stay active, but you've got to be careful with the heat. I do miss those double digits on the weekend, though. This was my 5-mile walk this morning before the heat became oppressive.
A lot of different muscles are used for walking, so it's an awesome complement to running. Besides, I seem to have so much more energy when I move more. I'm hoping to get another hike in this week, Lord willing. But rain and thunderstorms are in the forecast so we shall see. There's a lot of gorgeous scenery out there waiting to be discovered!
Friday, June 12
8:28 PM Some good news for a change: 10 Encouraging Trends of Global Christianity in 2020.
8:12 PM "The evangelical task primarily is the preaching of the gospel, in the interest of individual regeneration by the supernatural grace of God, in such a way that divine redemption can be recognized as the best solution to our problems individual and social." -- Carl F. H. Henry.
4:32 PM Fall will be here before you know it, and with it the fall semester. If you're a student who's enrolled in one of my classes, please note that the syllabi and course schedules have now been posted to Moodle for your reading pleasure. My classes this fall are:
Each is a 3-hour class. This does not include doctoral students and independent studies courses I'm also teaching this fall. I just printed off the class lists so I can begin praying for each of you by name. Eager to see you in person, Lord willing!
4:20 PM Guys, stop everything you're doing right now and read Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. It completely changed my views on the criminal justice system in America.
4:10 PM Today I ended up in Wake Forest because I needed the team at The Bike Guy (best bike store in Raleigh) to fix an issue with my road bike.
While there I decided to get in a short bike on the Neuse River Greenway.
The weather could not have been better for a ride -- sunny but on the cooler side.
The trail follows the Neuse River for about 30 miles. Parking is available at several points along the trail. It's a beautifully maintained trail system with many bridges and trestles. Although you are biking through the city you'd never know it. The feeder trails that bring in the suburbanites help maintain a real "rural" feel. There are hills but not very tough ones, and the course has lots of curves to keep you on your toes. You should definitely check out a greenway that WRAL calls "a piece of paradise." Your kids will see lots of wildlife like the deer I saw today. I felt really good after today's exercise, praise God. It's been a bit of a challenge living in "injury land" for the past two months, but there is always a (sometimes very dim!) light at the end of the tunnel -- the light of training, running, and even racing. My family has been with me every step of the way. Human connection is one of the most therapeutic things we can do for ourselves. If you are facing an injury of any kind today, my advice would be: allow yourself to be vulnerable, reach out to your loved ones and friends, and ask for their help and prayers. They are eager to come alongside you. Humans are not meant to be alone. Also, try to look at your injuries as learning opportunities. What does the Lord want to teach you during this time? Patience? How to listen to your body? The danger of self-sufficiency and pride? There are probably lessons to be learned that you've never dreamed of. Meanwhile, I continue to look for new and interesting places to walk/run/bike while practicing physical distancing. If you can think of a place I should try out, let me know by email.
Thursday, June 11
1:44 PM So this morning I got in 4 mile walk at the high school track, topping off a solid effort this week.
This has been really good practice for me to stay at my target heart rate.
My plan is to walk around 30 miles each week at a fairly slow pace. I am focusing on easy for now. The goal is to replenish my energy stores that were depleted over the past two months and to repair any damaged nerves and tissues. All the while your body adapts to more stress and to recovering sufficiently. Training is such a weird animal. Some days you are on top of the world and feel great. Other days you feel tired and you wonder why you do it at all. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that I don't enjoy training. Having a race goal in mind (especially a marathon) is one of the toughest things a person can do. However, I find recovering from an injury and having to start out at a brisk walk much more challenging. I'm more interested in endurance than going super fast. Just because we slow down as we age doesn't mean we can't still have big goals and strive for them. Right now I'm trying to decide what my next race should be. My June 25th marathon is now set for 2021. What to do in the meantime? I'm a believer in continuing to set high expectations for myself. Maybe it will be the Virginia 10 Miler, which I try to run every September in Lynchburg. Will I be up to 10 miles by then? I hope so. Remember: If you're a runner, it's your fault. You did this to yourself. Nobody is forcing you to train for your next race. So try and maintain some perspective and realize this is a privilege -- something we get to do as long as the Lord grants us the strength and health. No matter what, there will be good days ahead and there will be hard days. My best advice is to expect both and plan accordingly!
Wednesday, June 10
6:28 PM Lovely.
1:54 PM Today's hike was at the Eno River State Park near Durham, NC. The river is named for the Eno Indians who once lived along its banks. The Eno converges with the Flat and Little Rivers to form the Neuse. The state park offers 30 miles of hiking trails. Today I did the longest of them -- the Cox Mountain Trail. It's really the perfect course for trail running, and once I get my running legs back I plan to return to run the entire course. It's a great loop with nice elevation gains and losses. It's very well marked and there's no danger of getting lost. You can go either clockwise or counterclockwise. I went clockwise as I heard that it's steeper going uphill (and I like it that way). The best thing of all is the beautiful Eno River. It even boasts a suspension bridge. The hike was just over 4 miles. I can't recommend this trail enough. I've said it before and I'll say it again: one of the best things about hiking is that there's always a new adventure around the corner. It never gets boring. If I'm lacking excitement in my life, I know I can find it by hiking a new trail.
Done any new hikes lately?
A few pix:
Tuesday, June 9
1:52 PM Today is my 68th birthday and, no, I did not run that number of miles as some runners do on their birthday. I'd much rather munch on 68 Doritos. One of the gifts I did give myself was an overnight hiking excursion to the local mountains. Mountain laurels, maples, Virginia pines, and oaks dotted the hillside wherever I went, with rhododendrons becoming increasingly frequent the closer you got to a body of water. I started out near Winston-Salem, NC, to re-hike the Moore's Knob Loop Trail at Hanging Rock State Park. It takes a strenuous effort to reach the top of this trail. The loop to Moore's Knob is usually packed during the summer but I think I saw maybe a total of 4 people total yesterday. The trail starts out alongside a spring fed mountain lake (normally filled with swimmers but the lake is closed). Soon you begin a steep incline until you reach the lookout tower that sits on top. Once you've reached the peak you are rewarded with a full 360 degree panorama of the Sauratown Mountains and their more distant neighbor, the Blue Ridge. From there it's downhill all the way along a rock step trail (your quads will feel it). Afterwards I drove into Virginia and stayed overnight in Lynchburg so that I could get an early start this morning to hike to the Fallingwater Cascades in the Jefferson National Forest near Bedford. Sure was a fun two-day outing. Here are a few pics to bore you:
1) This is a great park. It offers a cornucopia of waterfalls, cliffs, rock formations, and ridge hiking.
2) The trail to Moore's Knob is a steady uphill climb. Since it's June the vegetation was in full bloom and there were no views to be had until the top.
3) The huffing and sweating are all worth it once you reach the lookout tower.
4) Here's Pilot Mountain.
5) And here's Hanging Rock.
6) The steps coming down are both convenient and brutal.
7) My goal was to finish in under 3 hours. The trail is every bit as strenuous as the rating it's been given by the guides, so don't be in too big of a rush.
8) This morning I arrived at the Fallingwater Cascades trailhead at around 7:00 am.
9) As I said, this parking lot is normally packed at this hour, but not today.
10) The cascades are not exactly what you would call gigantic, but they do provide a pleasant break from the heat and humidity.
11) The celebration continues tonight with a Freshly meal that one of my kids sent me today via FedEx. Let's see, shall we have the Almond-Ginger Chicken Bowl tonight?
12) That is, after a bike ride. Looks like I've always enjoyed that sport.
13) One final perk of the day. This also arrived today.
I will finish reading it today. When I start a good book I cannot put it down. Ever.
Well, Happy Birthday to moi. And a very good day to you!
Sunday, June 7
8:35 PM Wonderful "live and in person" service this morning and then lunch with grandkids. Perfect day. I think I'm going hiking for a couple of days in the mountains. Getting a bit stir crazy around here.
7:18 AM From my AM reading in Acts 7:
Sure seemed like it this morning.
Saturday, June 6
12:52 PM Meeting with the brethren in Roxboro this morning to pray for the work of the Lord in northeast India.
Now is an urgent moment for the church in America to step up and stand with our suffering brothers and sisters outside of the U.S.
This is part of the work I'm doing now, and the work I invite you into. You can learn more about this frontline ministry in India here.
7:44 AM Good morning, saints. This morning my Bible was reading was in the book of Acts. When I came to chapter 6, I was reminded that the earliest problem faced by the first believers was due to cultural and linguistic differences. Luke writes, "But with the believers multiplying rapidly, there were rumblings of discontent. Those who spoke only Greek complained that their widows were being discriminated against, that they were not being given as much food, in the daily distribution, as the widows who spoke Hebrew. So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers." We can't be sure, but apparently the Hebrew (Aramaic)-speaking Christians in Jerusalem were in the majority and the Greek-speaking Christians formed a minority. This minority group, and especially the widows, felt alienated and forsaken.
Have you ever felt alienated or forsaken? Ideally, harmony and unity are to characterize God's people. Yet linguistic and cultural differences so often lead to needless separation and hurt. Thankfully, the early church took the bull by the horns and resolved the problem before it got any worse. Helping people feel loved and worthwhile has always been a central mission of the church. We must do more than superficially agree there is a problem. Following Jesus requires something of us. The question we need to ask is this: Are we tolerating discrimination or are we addressing it head on? Are we arranging our lives around getting our needs met, or are we cooperating with God as loved participants in a plan larger than ourselves? Of course, we will never be able to fully mend the rip. Only God can do that. But the more aware we are of what is going on, the more committed we will be to knowing God and letting him have his way in our lives. Becoming a Christian means that we face the fallen structures all around us in all of their loathsome, stubborn, wicked power and then submit to a painful process of dismantling them. Cosmetic solutions won't cut it.
Could it be that our God is working in a new way in our churches and in our lives today? I hope so. The route to God never takes us around our problems. The early church dealt with them, and we can do the same today.
Friday, June 5
4:46 PM How can you help immigrants to the U.S. during the coronavirus crisis? World Relief has some suggestions. Great article.
4:24 PM Watching this tonight.
Saving Private Ryan tomorrow. Thank you to every American who hit the beach on D-Day, Republican or Democrat. Their legacy can never be dimmed.
Thursday, June 4
8:32 PM Ordered this book today. Two of my kids are raving about it.
How can a book be #13 on the Amazon Best Seller's list and I'm just hearing about it today?
5:50 PM Got in a short bike ride this evening. At one point I stopped and paused for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, along with much of the nation.
Thank you, sir, for these timely words and for your lifetime of service to our nation.
12:34 AM Yo folks. Hope your summer is going well. I'm okay though I feel fatigued all day long it seems. Thankfully, my injections are kicking in. B12 deficiency is a runner thing, I've discovered -- especially if you're a long distance runner. Glad we caught it when we did. Today I actually got in 3 miles at the local high school parking lot, and this evening I am planning on a short bike ride -- if it doesn't get any hotter. Otherwise I've got my work cut out for me -- I'm finishing up an entry for a forthcoming dictionary of Greek linguistics; working with my assistant on posting to Moodle the syllabi and schedules for my four classes this fall; making minor changes to the glossary to Ben Merkle's and my book Linguistics and New Testament Greek; answering some interesting emails (though some go immediately into trash); and working on more power points for the fall. I'm kinda surprised my squash plants are doing so well considering how hot it's been of late.
I know I should have a larger garden than I do, but I just haven't been motivated to do all the work. Thankfully, I have kids who keep me well supplied with various and sundry produce. These were laid this morning on their farm. Talk about fresh eggs!
Other than that, I've been trying to keep up with the protests. The bottom line is that we who have pledged our lives to Jesus are called to do one thing -- follow him! Regardless of our politics, we're called to mimic his loving service of others even if this entails suffering for our enemies. Let's let our refusal to engage in violence be proof to the world that we belong to a kingdom that is not of this world. This is the only way to true wholeness, abundant life, and profound joy.
11:33 AM The brilliant wisdom of C. S. Lewis (writing about World War 2 though you'd think he was writing about today):
This quote is from Wheaton's Marjorie Lamp Mead's excellent piece In Times of Uncertainty: Encouragement from C. S. Lewis. Loved, loved, loved this essay.
10:42 AM The main emphasis in the final two chapters of the book of Galatians is that in Christ Christians enjoy liberty. Those who were under the curse of the law Christ has now set free. And those who were slaves of sin he has made God's children.
Of course, Christian liberty, like our national freedom, can very easily be lost. Some Christians exchange liberty for license. Others exchange liberty for legalism. True Christian liberty, writes Paul, is neither license nor legalism but rather a life of self-control, service to our neighbor, and obedience to the laws of God. Christian freedom is never liberty to indulge the flesh; it is never liberty to exploit our neighbor; and it is never liberty to disregard the law.
In society, likewise, there remains a very grave danger that people will lose their liberty, as the former Secretary of Defense reminded us this week. He says is it the duty of public officials, no less than the common citizen, to obey and uphold the law. "The protests," he writes, "are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values -- our values as people and our values as a nation." He continues, "We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution." This is simply another way of saying, as the apostle Paul did centuries ago, that we can never use liberty to indulge our personal desires, exploit our neighbors, or disregard the law. That goes for protestors as well as politicians. As Paul emphasizes, we are free in relation to God, but we are debtors in relation to each other. "The whole law is fulfilled in one word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'."
As our nation undergoes trauma, there is hope. Ask God to change you. I will do the same. We will get through this if we love and serve one another instead of biting and devouring one another. Further, if we love one another, we will bear each other's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. This is "the freedom with which Christ has set us free" (Gal. 5:13). May we stand firm in it during these difficult days, nether relapsing into license on the one hand, nor falling into legalism on the other.
Wednesday, June 3
7:22 PM Jeff Christopherson's essay The Magnetic Power of Shared Burdens is worth your time! Burdens draw us together. "Freedom is found only when we engage with others and allow others to engage with us." Truly, this is the heart of the Christian experience. Oh, how I wish I could have joined Ed Stetzer in Chicago yesterday during their peaceful march for justice.
7:08 PM Thankful today for the Bible, God's holy word, which I can open and read every day and whose message is plain: "The goodness of God leads us to repentance." The whole of the Christian life is one big "Thank you" to God for his goodness.
7:02 PM George Lloyd's cousin encourages us to Lament, listen, love, and lead. A good word, brother. I need more humility and perseverance when I am corrected in this fashion.
2:22 PM Today, June 3, 2020, is Global Running Day. Many of my friends have posted their runs today on YouTube. I can't. Recently my B12 levels tanked and I've been grounded until I can get them back to normal. It may be a few weeks before I recover enough strength and stamina to run a marathon again. Still, on this day I am able to enjoy the freedoms that a lot of us take for granted: going for a walk, watering the garden, filling the donkey's trough, caring for my aging dog, enjoying the swallows sitting on their nest eggs, texting with friends and family. I feel so blessed to live in rural America. Even when it looks like the world is turning mad, the birds keep on chirping. Today is a celebration of movement, whether you walk a few steps, run a marathon, or just drag up old memories of races gone by.
I really believe we're living in a period of history that our grandchildren will read about in their textbooks. Personally, I feel stressed and anxious more than usual. I know that my sadness and exhaustion can't possibly compare to that of minority communities or the families that are grieving the loss of their loved ones. There will never be an end until we all achieve true equality before the law. At the same time, I feel a lot of hope and optimism right now as well. It seems that people are starting to listen and to commit to action. Among my friends and loves ones I see a lot of open hearts and minds. I am hopeful there will be better days for all of us. My own heart is changing, and as never before I am committed to manifesting that change outwardly in the world I live in. Thankfully, the violent protests of recent days seem to be subsiding, and today there are wonderful peaceful protests in many of our great cities. I hope and pray that the chaos is settling. I can't believe that hatred and division will win out in the end. I hope and pray they won't. What I'm most ashamed about is that it always seems to take a Trayvon or a Tamir or an Eric or an Ahmaud or a Breonna or a Philandro or a George to make me sit up, take notice, and really listen. I'm so ready for that to change.
Be safe, and show some love to someone this week, preferably someone you don't know. We're all going to need it.
11:15 AM Last night Jimmy Fallon interviewed Derrick Johnson, the president of the NAACP. The dialogue was so encouraging. Jimmy had made a grave mistake during one of his taped broadcasts. Last night he owned up to it. I am so proud of him and his courage. Everything in America is hard right now. As Derrick Johnson put it, "The last 70 days are perhaps the worst in our history in my opinion since the Civil War."
70 days? Doesn't that number sound vaguely familiar? I'm reminded of the 70 years ancient Israel spent in captivity in Babylon. Or the 70 years of Sabbaths that the city of Jerusalem kept while Judah was in captivity. Or the 70 years that Daniel prophesied for Jerusalem to complete its transgressions. At the same time, I think of how Jesus once sent 70 disciples on a mission to preach the Good News to the surrounding area. And in Matt. 18:21-22, Jesus told us to forgive 70 times 7.
Someone has said, "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better." I sense that Jimmy Fallon is committed to doing just that. So am I. I too want to learn how to self-reflect and unpack my conscious and subconscious beliefs so that I can be a better ally of truth and justice. I hate that our nation is going through so much suffering and turmoil right now, but this is an opportunity for us to change. It's time to heal and rise above the fear. It's time to become the UNITED States of America. And it starts with the courage to own up to our own mistakes and blindness. I don't know how God is going to fix this mess, but maybe when we've been honest in our own lives, in our families, in our churches, and in our communities, he will feel free enough to move into our pain and grant us a new beginning as a nation.
Tuesday, June 2
12:30 PM Thank you, Tony Evans.
Monday, June 1
5:38 PM Today would be a great day to read the thoughts of the president of Wycliffe Bible Translators USA. His essay is called Weep With Those Who Weep. He writes, "I am convinced that the only true solution is transformation in our hearts and minds that can only come from the one in whose image we are created."
How we view our fellow human beings can be the difference between life and death.
7:04 AM Laying claim to the nearness of God this morning. The crises just keep on coming. We wonder, "How long, O Lord?" We read in 1 John 3:9 that "the Son of God appeared to destroy the devil's work" (NIV). The Greek has the plural "works." The devil manifests his works in at least three ways, says Stott in his 1 John commentary. "Morally, his work is enticement to sin; physically, the infliction of disease; intellectually, seduction into error." Perhaps we could add a fourth: Socially, the sowing of public discord and rioting. The ancient Greeks called this stasis -- societal disorder. Tony Evans calls it our cultural pandemic. John the apostle would define it as lawlessness. "Everyone who sins breaks the law. In fact, sin is lawlessness." Wherever there is sin, there is lawlessness. Lawlessness is the very definition of sin according to John. And wherever you see lawlessness, there you will find sin in all of its ugliness.
Isn't that what we're seeing today? Not only on a moral, physical, and intellectual scale. Our social fabric is being torn apart. Hopefully not by people who claim to follow Christ. As followers of King Jesus we are to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather expose them. These conditions should put the nation at the mourner's bench. As for all those who have lost their lives in our nation, whether due to violence or Covid, my heart goes out to your families. "May light eternal shine upon them, O Lord, with Thy saints forever, for Thou art kind. Eternal rest give to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them."