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Billy Graham

From Wednesday, February 21, 2018 (Note: I cannot link to a specific post on Dave’s blog. In fact, that’s why I extract them here, so there’s a permanent link.)

Finally, Billy Graham is now in heaven. What a great soul. Everything for him was wrapped up in the Gospel. Sin, he said, is our problem, and when that problem is solved, everything else comes with it. It takes no talent to locate God’s men and women. Their hearts are perfect toward Him. This doesn’t mean they’re sinless. But their hearts are set on pleasing God. There’s nothing between their soul and the Savior. Here are two quotes by Billy Graham I just absolutely love.

I don’t think I could have ever married anybody that would have been more helpful to my work and ministry than she has been.

I want to hear one person say something nice about me, when I face him. I want him to say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Billy Graham bore the loss of his precious Ruthie with grace and nobleness. He aged well. His was not a Pollyanna life. But he met every trial with Christ. Everyone knew here was no ordinary man. Wherever he went, he left a trail of blessing. His “business” was to glorify God, and glorify Him he did. That’s what we’re here for as Christians. In body and in spirit, in sickness or health, by what we do and what we don’t do, by life or by death, our business is to glorify God, whatever it takes. When Graham spoke in Honolulu in 1965, I sang in the choir. I was 13 years old. “I love the music that you have out here,” he said. “The spirit of aloha seems to be in your music. It seems to be in your expression, in your smile. I’ve never been to a state or a place where everyone seems to have a certain amount of happiness.” Happy or not, Hawaiians were going to hear the Gospel preached to them. Graham called for his audience to submit in uncompromising, unquestioning obedience every day of their lives.

Like the apostle Paul, Billy Graham had something to forget — “things behind.” He had things to reach toward — “things before.” There was something to press toward — “the mark.” And there was something to work for — “the prize” — and he worked for it (Phil. 3:13). He was kept going by Jesus. He labored in the strength of Another. This strength is not just for preachers. He will keep us going as well. “My sinful self my only shame; my glory all the cross.” I’m sure Billy Graham sung that many times. He gloried in Christ’s cross. He had died with Him there. And today he saw Christ face to face. Even in his death, Billy Graham is drawing people to the Savior. He knew that along with privilege goes responsibility. Where much is given, much is required. The Christian looks unto Jesus for salvation and for every need. All other “looking up” is vain. When our loved ones die, God is still on His throne. Indeed, the passing of Billy Graham is but a prelude to an endless story that will unfold throughout eternity. Thanks be to God.

Giver of peace, we work daily at the job of practicing what Paul said to the Philippians: “I’ve learned in whatever state I’m in to be content” (Phil. 4:11). When Your saints die, that attitude helps us to accept what cannot be changed. O God the Spirit, fill our minds at this moment with the memory of a life well lived, of a man whose witness and service for You we recall with gratitude and humility. Lord, even if we’re old clay, we can still be reworked. What we pray is that we may remain faithful as long as we last. Loving Savior, for the genuine encouragement You offer us by the faithful servants of the past, we thank You. Now help us to run our race with perseverance, so that one day we too may join the community of saints. Amen.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by Permission.)

Philippians 1:3-11 – Translation and some Notes

(August 27, 2017) 2:50 PM Here’s my somewhat tentative rendering of Phil. 1:3-11:

I always [pantote modifies eucharisto] thank my God for you every time I think of you. Whenever I pray, I myself [middle voice] make my requests for all of you with joy because of the way you helped me in the work of the Gospel from the very first day until now. I’m convinced of this very thing — that God, who began a good work [anarthrous construction] like this among you, will carry it through to completion on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Indeed, it’s only right that I should keep on thinking [imperfective aspect] this way about all of you, since you are always in my heart. For all of you have shared with me the grace of God, whether I’m in prison or free to defend and establish the truth of the Gospel. God is my witness how I long to see all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus Himself!

It’s my prayer that your love for one another will keep on growing [imperfective aspect] still more and more, together with true knowledge and perfect discernment, so that you will continue to choose [imperfective aspect] what is best and will be pure and blameless on the day of Christ’s return, seeing that you are filled [stative aspect] with the good qualities that a right relationship with God brings — qualities that come only through Jesus Christ, for the glory and praise of God.

Take note: The theme of Philippians, as we’ve often said, is partnership in the Gospel. How clearly is this seen in Phil. 1:3-11! First of all, Paul explicitly thanks God for the Philippians’ partnership with him in the Gospel over many years. Second, this partnership has been negatively impacted by “relational breakdowns” (Fee). Hence Paul prays for an increase in the Philippians’ love for one another.

The immediate purpose of Paul’s prayer is that the Philippians might continue to choose what is best (i.e., continuing to live for the Gospel), and the ultimate purpose is that they might be “pure and blameless” when Christ returns. All of this is possible because God has already filled the Philippians with the results of being rightly related to Him, including the desire and the ability to do what pleases Him (cf. 2:13).

Impeccably logical? Indeed! In fact, Paul is only being consistent with what he writes in 1 Thess. 5:16-18: Always be joyful, prayerful, and thankful. Paul is being all three of these things here. The man sure practices what he preaches!

Paul the Missionary and Philippians

(September 5, 2017) 6:38 AM This week our study of Philippians coalesces with our study of Paul the missionary as portrayed in Acts. Paul’s core convictions about Christianity include:

  • Christians are not just to study theology but are to follow the example of Jesus and live the way He lived, in selflessness and humility.
  • Followers of Jesus are to put the needs of others above their own.
  • Christianity involves ethics as much as theology.
  • Suffering is a normal part of the Christian life.
  • Believers are called to pursue a kingdom that is radically different from all versions of the kingdoms of this world.
  • This kingdom is always cross-centered and counter-cultural.

Above all, both in Philippians and Acts we see Paul the missionary, a man who lived totally for the sake of the Gospel, a man for whom believing and behaving were never disconnected, a man who was committed to following Jesus in obedience and love unreservedly and unconditionally. More and more, it is this submission to the lordship of Christ that is being recognized as the core of Paul’s Gospel — an attitude of worldly renunciation matched by an eagerness to suffer for one’s faith, to death if necessary.

Paul invites all of us to embrace a more radical faith and more outwardly focused Christianity. Many years ago Jim Elliott went to Ecuador impelled by the same vision of radical discipleship. He fully embraced the Great Commission, could not keep quiet about his faith, and his legacy as a martyr continues to inspire many today to share their faith, plant new churches, and take the Gospel to the unreached and under-served nations of the world. For the most part, these radical emissaries of Jesus are ordinary, everyday Christians who have no formal theological training but who are obedient to the Spirit and not only understand the Bible but obey it. I work in the midst of a community of students and scholars where everybody is concerned with some aspect of the Christian mission, whether in North America, Africa, Asia, the Pacific, Europe, or Latin America. In such a community, everybody is a missionary. No place feels like home. The world itself beckons us. For the world’s problem is sin, and it is left in a worse state than ever when it is given anything less than the cure.

So who will apply the cure? Will it be me? Will it be you? There must be a radical turn in our churches from earth’s skubala (excrement, unspeakable filth) to heaven’s treasure (3:8). There is no place in the will of God for a lenient attitude toward what Paul calls “the only thing that matters” (1:27). Paul was committed to one thing (3:13). He had his priorities right.

So how about it? Will you join the cause of global missions? There is a two-way movement here. As we draw close to Christ, His love in turn impels us outward toward others. We have everything in Christ. Shall we not share this blessing with others? Our Lord had no place for middle grounds or halfway stations. He expects His people to “shine like stars in the world, holding forth the life-giving message” (2:15-16).

Think about it.


Structure of Philippians 1:12-18

1) Here’s my student Joe leading our Greek 3 class in a discussion of the structure of Phil. 1:12-18.

2) I’ll repeat: There is nothing I enjoy more than watching my students teach. Here Joe is taking us through the Greek text of Phil. 1:12-14.

His analysis clearly shows how, in this section of Philippians, Paul is turning his attention to the progress of the Gospel, as seen in two ways: 1) his guards (and others) know that he’s in prison for the cause of Christ, and 2) the Christians in Rome are more actively (and fearlessly) proclaiming Christ. That little word mallon shouldn’t be overlooked. The “progress” that Paul’s describing came “unexpectedly.” One would think that imprisonment would mean the end, not the beginning of something. But God delights in making good out of evil. (More on that below.)

Clericalism and Speaking in Love


(Extracted from Dave Black Online, March 17, 2015. Used by permission.)

While I’m at the computer, let me add a brief word about my views on the professional pastorate, since I will also be dealing with this topic in my new book. It is not eldership but clericalism that is the danger. Obversely — and this is of vital importance — we can make anti-clericalism into an idol, a god at whose clay feet we worship with as much zeal and passion as those who bow the knee to the clerical system. (This anti-clerical attitude is apparent in several recent posts in various blogs.) I have no doubt that a stipendiary clergy pauperizes our people and places tradition above Scripture. But this is more than a question of who does what. If we are to maintain a voluntary system we must do so not only in obedience to the mind of Christ but also in obedience to the mind of the Spirit of Christ. I am well aware that a great many good and thoughtful professional pastors hold positions with which I disagree. I am also aware that for every local church that loses its professional pastor for reasons of the latter’s conscience, a replacement will be found from within the ranks of those who feel themselves called to the professional ministry. I believe most professional pastors do what they believe is the correct course of action, and they do so conscientiously. Some of them (many of whom I know personally) are motivated by a belief that they can do more good by striving for reform from within their churches than by planting new churches. They plead for understanding and support from former paid pastors. Should they resign for reasons of conscience, they would do so only with the deepest regret, and future criticism they might make of the stipendiary clergy would be offered in a spirit of deepest empathy and the most cordial love. They know they are not better or wiser than those who continue in their paid pastorates. They pray and labor for a clergy that comprises every single follower of Jesus Christ, and they expect God to answer their prayers. They realize that the Great Commission will never be accomplished by trained and paid workers simply because we can never train and pay enough workers to get the job done. However, a danger exists that the appeal for voluntary leadership will lead to a new kind of Galatianism that claims the superiority of their “non-circumcised” status over against those who have submitted to the legalism of circumcision. Paul’s response should put an end to pride on either side: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision amounts for anything, but only faith working in love” (Gal. 5:6). True faith is always a gracious faith; it works itself out by love for God and love to our brethren. It is not merely an intellectual faith, for “we all have knowledge; knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1). It is a faith that is always expressed in kindness and affection and in a readiness to bear with the weaknesses of others. I censure myself as much as any other blogger out there when I say this: Love is utterly opposed to telling others in a condescending spirit what they “ought” to do, for truth is perfected only in love. So to my fellow reformers I say: Let others see our love and feel our heart of compassion even as they listen to our words of exhortation and correction. Let us not pride ourselves on having found the “only right way,” for Christianity is much more than correct doctrine, even correct ecclesiology. The one essential of the Christian life is love, and one expression of Christian love is a tolerance of diversity — a tolerance that does not spring from indifference but rather from an awareness that church practices are subordinate to what is essential.

To give you an example from my own congregation: When our elders decided to use a single loaf of bread during the observance of the Lord’s Supper (in keeping with their interpretation of 1 Cor. 10:16-17), several members of our congregation expressed to them the uncomfortable feeling they had when touching a single loaf of bread with their fingers, and so alongside the one loaf was placed a platter on which had been laid bread that had been sliced into bite-sized pieces. I venture to insist that, far from being a compromise on the part of our elders, this was an exquisite demonstration of their love for the brethren. In other words, these leaders refused to turn forms into essentials. Whatever strengthens faith is valuable as a help but is worthless as a legalism. It is possible to support professional missionaries without becoming one yourself. (I do.) It is also possible to work with stipendiary pastors to propagate the truth that is revealed in Christ. (I do.) On the face of it, this would appear to be an act of compromise. But we must always separate our personal convictions from our willingness to cooperate with others in the cause of the Gospel. We who are non-professional missionaries must be careful not to judge professional missionaries any more than Paul condemned those who lived by the Gospel. Whether or not we are paid to be a missionary is a technicality. Spiritually, all obedient followers of Christ are missionaries to the non-Christian world. The same Spirit is given to all of us, and where the Spirit is, there is liberty of the most amazing kind (2 Cor. 3:17). If we focus too narrowly on matters of church organization, we face the very grave danger of missing the revelation of the Spirit as the Spirit who labors for the salvation of the world. Every form of Christian mission can and must be undertaken in, with, and by that one and the same Spirit, with each individual finding her or her own proper work under the one Spirit’s guidance. So beware! The road back to Galatianism is all too easy to take.

Night Comes Before Morning

From Dr David Alan Black’s personal blog today. (Title from admin.)

It was late last night and I was reading in bed when I suddenly felt overwhelmed, felt something rising deep within me and clawing its way to the surface, loud and painful. Once again God was challenging me, offering me another opportunity to trust Him viscerally. My mind went to the passage in Philippians we had studied this week in my Greek 3 class, the passage about a man named Epaphroditus. He had ministered to Paul in prison, had gotten desperately ill, but God had healed him miraculously, thus sparing Paul “sorrow upon sorrow.” All I can tell you is that, had Epaphroditus died, Paul would have been overwhelmed with grief, wave after wave of sorrow assaulting him mercilessly.

Well, God in His love and sovereignty allowed Becky to become desperately ill. For four and a half years we battled cancer together. But unlike Epaphroditus, her illness was unto death. It’s common for a major loss in life to trigger the memory of previous losses, and if those losses weren’t grieved over, the pain begins to pile up, it accumulates and is added to your current pain. The result is often emotional trauma. Paul’s honesty in Philippians is refreshing. “God had mercy on him, and not only on him, but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow.” This verse is the counterpoint to all the verses in Philippians that speak about joy. To rejoice in the Lord does not mean that you deny the reality of your loss. When a person loses someone precious to them, you needn’t admonish them, “Don’t be sorrowful. Death is nothing but the entrance into eternal life, into the very presence of Jesus. We are to be content even when someone precious to us dies.” At some point during the process of recovery, you will hear those words from well-meaning friends. What they fail to realize is that when someone close to you dies, part of you also dies. You grieve not only for them but also for yourself. You are forever “without” that other person. You feel frustrated, hurt, helpless, and afraid. Sometimes you may even become angry or depressed. Neither emotion represents a lack of faith. They are simply responses to loss. Grief is that 30-feet wave I surfed at the Banzai Pipeline when I was a teenager. It moved over me and broke against me and there was nothing in the world I could do about it except yield to its force and let it carry me to a new place until it ran out of energy.

Last night, as I sat in my bed, overcome with emotion, I asked myself, What caused this sudden sorrow? What triggered it? And then it became clear to me. I had been checking the national weather map on my iPad, moving from the East Coast to the West Coast, and as I moved into the deserts of Arizona my mind blew a gasket. Before me, staring at me unforgivably on the map, were the places Becky and I had vacationed with our family while we were living in California. Memories began to race through my mind — Bryce, Zion, the Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater, Winslow, Canyon de Chelly. I suddenly felt empty, depressed, sad, withdrawn. I felt like Lee at Chancellorsville: outmanned, outgunned, outsupplied. For a brief moment I forgot that I was not alone, that Jesus Himself, the Man of Sorrows, the one who was “acquainted with grief,” was sitting right next to me, holding my hand, understanding my loss, weeping and mourning with me like He did at the tomb of Lazarus, not trying to rush me through the sadness but letting it accomplish its perfect work, teaching me how to embrace my grief, and the steps to recovery. Raw and fragile, I receded into self pity.

And then it happened. I heard the ring on my iPad telling me an email had just arrived. This is what I read:

Dear Dave,

Just wanted you to know that I am especially praying for you this week. I have followed your blogs about Becky now for a year and have appreciated them so much. I don’t pretend to understand your journey but I have been going on one of my own since my dad died a year ago Oct 31. I know it doesn’t come close to the pain of losing a spouse but he was still my dad for 58 years and I have terribly missed his voice and words of encouragement. Your willingness to openly blog your pain and your healing process has helped me through mine this past year and I am truly grateful to God and to you for that. May the Lord comfort and encourage you through His Holy Spirit’s ministry over the coming days.

Love in Him,

Your brother in Christ.

The sky suddenly lightened. The wind subsided. The dust settled. The wave released me. God, who had seemed so distance, now felt so close that I thought I could touch Him. Tell me it isn’t so, I said to myself. How did this friend of mine, who lives 7,000 miles away on another continent, know that he needed to send me that email at that precise moment in time? This is not normal. It is inexplicable — unless you believe in a God who sees your vulnerability, sees that something has been ripped away from you, and yet still loves and cares for you. It’s as if He was saying to me, “Dave, your grief is okay. It is a statement that you loved someone very much.”

And what of this morning? The disruption, the confusion, the sorrow is still with me to a degree. I learned long ago that I can’t just hang up my pain like I hang up my shirt in my closet at the end of a work day. Grief is my constant companion, though sometimes it is more blatant, more in-your-face than at other times. Often, when I least expect it, the grief returns, sometimes like the crashing wave at Pipeline, sometimes like the oozing lava that is bearing down upon Pahoa on the Big Island today. I know that some of you feel the way I do about Becky’s loss. You share with me my pain, my grief. I have spoken with many of you. You have your own pain, too, some of you do. You lost a child or a parent this past year. There was a miscarriage or a stillbirth. That infant, though dead, still fills the bleachers of your mind. Loss is not natural, normal, predictable. I want you to know that I grieve for you too. Enter fully into your sorrow. Weep like I did last night. Go ahead and feel the pain of your loneliness (even though you are never really alone). Something absolutely life-changing has occurred in your life. Face it head-on, learn from it, let it do its work. Expect your feelings to intensify in the months ahead. And when deep within you those memories trigger the sights, sounds, and even smells of the past, when your pain overrides your ability to pray even, when all you can do is sit there and mutter over and over again, as I did last night, “Dear God, Lord Jesus,” remember that Christianity embraces both real tears and real hope. Max Lucado put it well (No Wonder They Call Him the Savior, 105-106):


Those tiny drops of humanity. Those round, wet balls of fluid that dribble from our eyes, creep down our cheeks, and splash on the floor of our hearts. They were there that day. They are always present at such times. They should be; that’s their job. They are miniature messengers; on call twenty-four hours a day to substitute for crippled words. They drip, drop and pour from the corner of our souls, carrying with them the deepest emotions we possess. They tumble down our faces with announcements that range from the most blissful to the darkest despair.

The principle is simple; when words are most empty, tears are most apt.



Build the Church

“To build the kind of church Jesus envisioned in John 17 we must help our people realize that it is not about us or about our church. It’s about His kingdom, a kingdom that centers around Christ’s glorious act of self-sacrifice. If we think we can present the Gospel without surrendering and forsaking everything in us, then we have not understood the Gospel.” Source: Dave Black Online

The Journey to Find Jesus

At the heart of my journey has been my personal quest to find Jesus. Not the Jesus of my childhood, neatly compressed into a glossy magazine. Nor the Jesus of my academic research — an analyzable datum of objective linguistic investigation. Not even the Jesus of Southern churchianity — a fossilized relic deeply embedded in literary limestone and hidden from sight by the attendance boards and manger scenes so visibly on display in our sanctuaries. Recently, some scholars have sought Jesus in social convention — a Mr. Nice Guy who models societal decorum for our children. Others see nothing but the Jesus of politics — either the political revolutionary or the societal transformer who eagerly uses our tax dollars for spiritual causes. Oddly, I found Jesus in none of these places. The Jesus I know and love is found in the Scriptures about Him, the Gospels themselves. Here I find the most beautiful life that was ever lived, a life devoted to placing the needs of others over His own needs, a life willing to go all the way down to wash the feet of outsiders and sinners. This Jesus said of Himself that He did not come to be served but to serve. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. He is the Model Missionary. And it is like Him I am seeking to become.
Source: Dave Black Online