October 2016 Blog Archives
Sunday, October 30
5:06 PM #MacAfeeKnob.
Saturday, October 29
4:40 PM Yo, folks! Beginning today, I've decreed the next seven days to be a week of celebration and commemoration. This Wednesday, Nov. 2, it will be exactly three years since Becky finished her race and the Lord called her Home. I think she did a fantastic job, don't you? Do I miss her? Are there horses in Texas? She was more precious to me than life itself. I've got people in my life whom I'm grateful for, but there was no one like Becky. Immolated into one another for 37 years, she's now gone, and there's no sense in trying to turn the clock back. Marriage, as with our Christianity, is not a project to be worked on but something to be marveled at with humility and gratitude.
So how will I celebrate? For starters, this morning I ran a 5K in Wake Forest. What a wonderful, joy-filled experience. Tomorrow I'm hiking MacAfee Knob with a good friend. On Monday I hope to run/jog/walk/crawl 26.2 miles. This Wednesday I'm having lunch with an old and trusted buddy of mine. Next weekend I'm going to Becky's grave with family members. We'll finish things off on Saturday night with a concert at the NC Symphony. They're playing one of my all-time favorite pieces: Copland's Appalachian Spring. It will be the perfect way to end an amazing week.
To all of you who have sent me words of encouragement during the past three years: Words will never be enough to express what your texts and emails have meant to me. I know it might sound pretty strange to say it, but I wish that all of you could experience what I've experienced these past three years, though without the pain and the suffering. God has been good to me. When I look back now, I see nothing but grace revealed, experienced, lavished upon me, whereas three years ago practically all I saw was darkness and death. So much of my life with Becky Lynn was lovely and holy. But those days are gone forever. I will carry the vivid memory of her to my grave, as I know many of you will. But on that Day, when all of life is healed and restored, I'll gaze again upon her beautiful, freckled face -- no longer "bone of my bones," no longer my wife, but my sister in Christ for ever and ever. In the meantime, the tale of my own life will continue to unfold. I have a sense that God still has a story to write, and that the story will be good. I will never forget my bride. Her death will always remain a horrific experience that left huge, gaping wounds of unspeakable grief. But that experience has now become part of a greater whole, and I know that God is growing my soul, making it bigger and better and fuller with Himself. I'm eager to climb new mountains, cross new rivers, face new adventures. "Not knowing when the dawn will come, I open every door" (Emily Dickenson). Even today, in the dark, God is making my life -- and yours -- into something beautiful, His "masterpiece" if you will (Eph. 2:10, ISV). All we have to do is open the door. Healing is either around the next corner or a thousand years away. Either way, let's find out together.
I love you.
1) Today's race began and finished at the historic birthplace of Wake Forest College on Main St.
2) The weather was great, and a good crowd turned out for the race.
3) Our goal today was to raise funds for the Franklin County Humane Society. They are doing a fantastic work in the community. Already this year they've placed over 400 dogs or cats.
4) Never saw this breed before.
5) As you know, whenever I run a 5K I always try to beat the magical 30-minute mark. I knew I was in trouble as soon as I arrived and someone asked me if I had heard about "Killer Hill." Ugh.
6) It's pretty obvious that the second mile was all uphill.
Oh well, there's always next time.
Friday, October 28
6:04 PM Nijay Gupta just linked to 4 recently published commentaries on the New Testament. He likes them all. One of them he commends because it pays attention to the "early reception of Colossians." Ding! That struck a bell. "Early reception" is another way of saying how a text has been studied and received throughout church history. In some countries this is, in fact, a separate division of study -- Dogmengeschichte it was called when I studied in Basel. The professor of Dogmengeschichte was none other than Martin Anton Schmidt, the son of Karl Ludwig Schmidt -- the well-known progenitor of New Testament form criticism.
I recall taking a course from him on the history of the interpretation of Romans. Yes, history is totally in my head. I love the subject. And I am being lured back into the field. I'd kinda forgotten just how important it is. That said, I'm not holding my breath that seminary departments will start adding degrees in the history of dogma. But they should! I recall spending a week at Ealing Abbey in West London translating the church fathers from the Greek and the Latin. I wanted to know what they had to say about the historical origins of the Gospels. Flabbergasted is not a strong enough word to describe my reaction. We can't ignore church history and expect to understand our Bibles very well. I am here to tell you: Dogmengeschichte is a wonderful subject.
Hmm. I wonder if it's too late to get a second doctorate?
12:32 PM The weather is purr-fect today. Time for us to get caught up on a few farm chores such as mowing and cleaning up the Valley Road.
Lots of trees are down due to recent storm damage.
Nothing a chain saw can't handle, however.
Time to prepare lunch. Tuna sandwiches with avocadoes. Nummy.
10:58 AM Speaking of Abidan Shaw, in a previous interview he asked me about the views of my former colleague at Biola University, Harry Sturz. To listen to this interview, click here. Abidan himself is completing a doctoral dissertation at SEBTS on the subject of New Testament textual criticism. Now, obviously I espouse the view put forth by Dr. Sturz, but I wonder how many students of the New Testament have even been exposed to that perspective? That's why I've begun to require my Ph.D. students to read both Sturz's dissertation (The Byzantine Text-Type and New Testament Textual Criticism) as well as the book he seeks to refute, Hort's famous introduction to the Westcott-Hort Greek New Testament. I am convinced that many people do not espouse Sturz's view simply because they have never worked through these two books. This puts everything in danger -- both leaders in our churches and the people. I won't lie; I love church history. And, to a large degree, this issue of textual criticism is largely a question of history. It's an incredibly interesting story -- and a very complicated one. Here are two books that will help us to become better students of the New Testament.
9:34 AM Yesterday's interview was a delight. Abidan asked me many interesting questions, not the least of which was, "So tell me, why did you get involved in weight training?" Let me camp out on the word "training" for a minute. Exercise is physical activity performed for its own immediate value. But training is exercise performed to help you accomplish a long-range goal of some kind. For example, yesterday's 5-mile run was training for tomorrow's 5K in Wake Forest. Tomorrow's 5K will be training for my next half marathon. And my next half marathon will be training for the first marathon I hope to run in 2017. (Well, I'll probably walk most of it.) If you're someone who struggles to get adequate exercise, it might just be because you think of exercise as being done for its own sake. Improvement for a long-term goal is the objective of training. If you've outgrown "exercise," training may well be the next step for you. My ultimate goal is to be fit enough to climb some really steep and hard mountains in the Alps next July, even harder than the peaks I climbed there last summer. Daily exercise helps me to judge where I am along the spectrum of preparation.
Here's my challenge to you. (This is the "Took" from yesterday's discussion -- hehe.) Simple weight training exercises can be a great way to achieve your long-term goals. They allow you to combine cardio and strength training. You end up burning fat -- fast. You'll gain better posture and improve your overall performance. And, because there are so many exercises you can do, you'll never get bored.
Above all, explore your motivations. Why am I exercising? To feel better? To achieve weight loss? To reduce my blood pressure? To run a 5K or a marathon? To raise money for a charity? To reduce my cardiovascular risk? A combination of the above? Whatever your goals are, I hope you will make muscle training exercises a part of your workout schedule. It's so easy to let our bodies "go." No one intends this. It just happens. But it's never too late to turn the ship around.
Thursday, October 27
7:30 PM A day in the life ...
1) Met with Joshua, one of my doctoral students, for mentorship this morning at the local Amish bakery.
2) Going through Harry Sturz's The Byzantine Text-Type and New Testament Textual Criticism.
3) Then off to the Y to lift.
4) Followed by a 5 mile run.
5) Care to join me?
6) Next ... did another interview with my former assistant Abidan Shaw for his Hoi Polloi podcasts.
7) The topic? My new book, Running My Race.
8) Then dinner with the Blacks at our favorite seafood restaurant in Henderson, NC.
9) It's called "220," and the trout is out of this world.
10) Peyton cuddling with his Papa B.
11) Graham's turn.
12) Tonight I gave Peyton the rabbit Nate had when he was Peyton's age. He's called Nala -- "Alan" spelled backwards (Nathan's middle name is Alan).
So it turned out to be another typical (i.e., busy) day in my life. I loved every minute of it. Good night, all!
8:12 AM Lawrence Richards, longtime professor at Wheaton, has died at the age of 85. For the story, go here. His Creative Bible Teaching was required reading when I was in seminary. Each lesson, he said, should have four stages: Hook, Book, Look, and Took. I had mixed feelings about the book. I don't think that sermons can always be reduced to pithy titles or that they need to have only one main point. I do agree with one of his main points, however: To be effective, a public speech (such as as sermon) needs to have an introduction ("Hook") that commands attention and awakens needs. Relevance ("Took") must also be present. I'd recommend this book for anyone wanting to improve their speaking skills.
7:48 AM "Who I am is who I am in Christ." Spoken in chapel yesterday.
7:12 AM Good morning, world!
Wednesday, October 26
8:24 PM Greetings virtual friends! How 'bout a picture potpourri of fantastic fotos?
1) My assistant teaching yesterday's baby Greek class. Way to go, Noah!
2) One of my doctoral students discussing textual criticism in last night's Ph.D. seminar. Fantastic job, Huss!
3) Lunch today with our librarian. His wedding took place on Oct. 1. Congratulations, Jason and Dawn!
4) My esteemed colleague Denise O'Donoghue speaking in our New Testament class today.
5) Her topic was "Discipleship of Women in Titus." Outstanding!
6) Got back to the farm just in time to get up hay.
7) Three trailer loads!
8) Too tired to cook, so ....
9) Yesterday I read the Festschrift for John Lee called Biblical Greek in Context. (A Festschrift can be defined as "a collection of writings published in honor of a scholar.")
John Lee is a deliberate writer. His works are never scintillating. He writes simply, clearly, and dispassionately. This volume contains creative responses to Lee's works, primarily in the area of Greek lexicography. It contains enough homage, imitation, and criticism to excite even the dullest reader. As a physical object, the book is very attractive. (Obviously I'm not a huge fan of e-books.) The paper quality is excellent, and a beautiful font is used throughout. Some of the essays are surprisingly adventurous. In fact, I took copious notes when reading this book. There are 15 pieces here, inspired by Lee's own writings. Here are just two takeaways of mine:
I enjoy immensely reading Festschriften like this one. The most recent one to arrive on my desk was published to honor a dear friend and colleague of mine, Prof. Antonio Piñero of the Complutensian University in Spain.
I've got a pithy piece of pious prattle in it. I have placed this book on an altar and daily prostrate myself before its erudition. All Festschriften are a mixed bag – a bit of hit and miss. But Lee's is nevertheless quite good. If you've ever read any of Lee's writings, you'll see why this act of recognition is so well-deserved. I heartily recommend reading it.
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!