Monday, November 18
6:58 AM "Life's best teachers are those who are getting up in years and have known pain. Often the more years and the deeper the pain, the better the teaching. Out comes, not information, but wisdom." -- Chuck Swindoll.
This week we're studying the book of Revelation together in our NT 2 class. I like to think of John, the author of this book, as a seasoned follower of Jesus. He was likely in his 90s when he penned this prophecy, and I'm sure he had known pain in his life. Hence, out comes not mere information. Out comes wisdom. As Christians, we need more than facts. We need insight. Insight especially into God -- who He is, how He works, and what He's about in this old world of ours. I have zero interest in trying to figure out what each and every symbol in the book of Revelation stands for. But I am keenly interested in finding out what this book can tell us about the nature and work of God. For starters, there's nothing that God cannot do. "All God's acts are done without effort" (A. W. Tozer). God needs no help from anyone. He possesses unlimited might, strength, and power. He is never surprised by the future. Moreover, God sustains life for as long as He wants. The universe too. He is not "almost" sovereign. That's like saying you're "almost" married. No, nothing can frustrate, hinder, or stop His purposes. Finally, God's ways are beyond our understanding. They are too deep for explanation. Paul wrote, "How unsearchable! How unfathomable!" Can you explain every detail in the book of Revelation? Neither can I. God doesn't have to explain Himself. We don't need to know everything that's going on. We just need to know the One who does know.
When will all of this happen? It's been over 2,000 years since Christ promised that He would return. Notice that He didn't tell us when that would happen. He just told us to live in anticipation of it 24/7. I personally hope that He returns soon. I didn't always think that way. No, a younger Dave might have said, "Lord, I hope You come back soon, but please wait until after I graduate from college and get married and have children and grandchildren." Now all of that has changed. True, I still have goals and ambitions and aspirations and dreams. What has changed aren't my goals. What has changed is the intensity of my desire to be with Christ and to see the world made right.
So what does the future hold? A face to face encounter with Christ, with whom we will live and reign forever in the new heavens and the new earth. That's the promise of an aged apostle filled with insight. It's also the teaching of our Lord. The book of Revelation was not given to frighten us. It was written to remind us that God will win in the end, that good will triumph over evil, that suffering and pain and tears will one day be no more. This God dwells with His people even today. When our Lord walked on the water He did not say to His disciples, "There is no storm." He did not say, "The storm will blow over eventually, so be of good cheer." He said, "It is I." Trouble is a reality in this world. But we can be cheerful because He has overcome everything this world can throw at us. The Lamb indeed makes all the difference in the world.
Sunday, November 17
5:02 PM My quick trip to Georgia is all wrapped up and my what a great weekend it was. The rain came in on Thursday and Friday but it didn't hang around and, yes, we did make it to a jazz club on Friday night. Time now to get over the chest cold I've gotten and focus on the week ahead, where the biggest challenge will be prepping my Greek 1 class for their second take-home exam of the semester. I do think we will focus mostly on parsing and try to absorb as much as we can from chapters 7-11 before the exam. With a diligent class of hard-working students, I am most grateful. I feel it will be a week of Greek goodness. Sure it's hard. But thankfully God knows everything about us. He is completely aware of all the personal struggles that threaten to undo us, including trying to prepare for an exam. All He says to us is "Christ." There's nothing more to say. So to all of my students this week: Let us believe Christ (faith), let us wait for Christ (hope), and let us serve Christ (love). We won't get anywhere without depending on Him. Let's reconnect to the supernatural this week and yield ourselves to no higher purpose than to know Christ and experience Him moment by moment!
Thursday, November 14
7:36 AM More often than not, on my days off from teaching I'm reading books. Many of them. My Bible reading this morning was in the Hebrew version of Matthew.
On my flight today I hope to devour this commentary by the one and only John Stott. Stott is always hard to put down.
Then, while in the Fort Benning area, I plan to peruse a couple of books that I own but have never read.
As you can see, I like to read widely. I like to begin with the Scriptures. Then I enjoy authors with whom I agree. Finally, I like to tackle books by writers with whom I might disagree. I'm always in the middle of a few books at once. Books. Can't live without 'em!
What's on your night stand or in your secret drawer?
Off to the races!
Wednesday, November 13
8:28 PM It's that time of the year, when the weather is no longer as welcoming and yet you have to keep on training for your next race. Cold or not, you just keep on going, pushing through to the next level of personal fitness. So far this week I was able to get in double workouts on Monday and then again this morning. Here are Monday's stats:
And these are from today.
Guess what, you really can do back to back workouts if you begin with cardio/weights in the gym and then hit the trails. I'm not saying that I'm an expert, but I do think it makes sense to balance weight training with slow running, especially as we all get a bit older. And the irony is, as we exercise the body, the mind is the beneficiary. Among other writing projects I had on my plate this week was finishing this book review, which I just sent to the publisher.
I also finished and posted the syllabi to two of my upcoming spring classes. Meanwhile, it was back to chapel yesterday, where we heard a splendid message from Phil. 3. As I often do, I took along not only my Greek New Testament but also my German and French New Testaments. It's always fun to see how other translations handle exegetical issues. Sometimes you find something pretty interesting, like the way the French renders 3:3: "The circumcision -- it's us!"
Keeping up with the languages is so key for all you exegetes out there, and what better way to do this than by taking along your foreign language Bibles when you attend chapel or a church gathering. And, might I add, if the message is from the Old Testament, it's a sure thing you'll find the LXX useful.
Meanwhile, packing for my trip to Georgia tomorrow is now in progress. I like to pack the night before in order to feel less rushed on the day I fly. Plans are to attend a jazz concert on Friday night with my daughter and her husband and then run a race with them on Saturday. Best rest for me is getting away for a few days and spending some quality time with family.
Been a good week so far, been good! Looking forward to sharing some pictures from my trip with you.
Monday, November 11
6:48 AM As today is Veteran's Day, I decided to see Midway last night. Yes, "courage" is our word of the day, ladies and gentlemen. A movie like Midway brings to mind old-fashioned words like fortitude, strength of character, and plain old-fashioned guts.
I think the writers of the New Testament knew what courage was like. That's why, in talking about the Christian walk, they used tough words like "race," "struggle," and "battle." The battle against the world, flesh, and devil is just that -- an endless battle. When attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, the United States had the courage to continue. Likewise, when we're attacked, when we face adverse times, Christ's own strength moves in on our weaknesses. "When you look back and see just one pair of footprints," says the Lord, "it was then that I carried you." And that's what grace is all about. I haven't gotten over it yet.
Happy Veterans Day to all you vets out there. We salute your bravery and are thankful for your service.
Sunday, November 10
7:55 AM The topic for tomorrow night's Advanced Greek Grammar class? That's right, discourse analysis. Oh my, how to approach this gignormous topic? I'm a little bit of a mad scientist right now, thinking up all kinds of elixirs to help my students fathom the depths of the subject. To be right up front with you, we're using essays that I personally feel were helpful for me when I was beginning to dig deep into the topic. These include Parunak's "Dimensions of Discourse Structure: A Multidimensional Analysis of the Components and Transitions of Paul's Epistle to the Galatians," as well as two chapters by Porter:
I feel confident that these writings will give the class a good basic overview of the discipline. Then next week we will be looking at two additional essays, one by Longacre ("Towards an Exegesis of 1 John Based on the Discourse Analysis of the Greek Text") and the other by Osburn ("Discourse Analysis and Jewish Apocalyptic in the Epistle of Jude"). Do not fret, this topic can be understood and even mastered, but it takes time, folks, it takes time. Speaking of time, if there's enough time tomorrow night after the student presentations, I think I'll walk the class through my own study of the discourse structure of Philippians.
Over all, let's stay positive when it comes to learning new methods and approaches in New Testament studies. They are JUST methods, and at the end of the day it's not the method that matters but the resulting understanding of the text.
Saturday, November 9
12:42 PM Hey folks, I thought you might enjoy these aphorisms on teaching and writing by Albert Einstein:
Einstein once said, "I am the acoustic type. I learn by ear and give by word." He wrote the way he would have spoken. It is said that he heard the words before he wrote them. He adopted a "conversational" style in his writing.
Here's the HOW of conversational writing:
Here's the WHAT of conversational writing:
Bottom line? If you want to connect with your readers, treat them like friends. Good advice, if you ask me!
P.S. What got me started on this topic? Watching sermons on YouTube by Lloyd Ogilvie and Haddon Robinson. Neither used notes (eye contact, eye contact, eye contact!), and both used simple language. An example from Haddon Robinson.
10:10 AM Exegesis, thankfully, is not all that hard when you pay close attention to details. All you need to do is stay close to the Greek text, and that is a beautiful thing. The sun is shining brightly this morning in Southern Virginia -- a good day to sit on the front porch and begin writing the syllabus for my spring break course on 1 Thessalonians. I'm reading the letter in the Greek, of course.
Various English versions (including Today's English Version) round things out.
My first item of business this morning was to decide if I was going to adopt Zondervan's Life Application Commentary on 1-2 Thessalonians. I know for a fact that this is an excellent commentary in many ways. But it has its "niggles" (as we say in the running community). I noticed, for example, a troublesome inconsistency. Note how the author divides 1:2-10 into two paragraphs (1:2-3 and 1:4-10) in his outline:
But then note how the same author actually treats chapter 1 in the commentary proper. Now all of a sudden we find 1:2-6 as the first major paragraph after the opening greeting (1:1).
Not sure how to explain this disconnect between the author's outline of 1 Thessalonians and his discussion of chapter 1. Therefore, it was back to the Greek syntax.
Here we see how 1:2-5 is structured. The main verb "We give thanks" is modified by three participles (a not uncommon practice in Paul, who loves the "rule of three"):
This is called text-based teaching or preaching. You can find my power point on the subject here. I am excited to let you know that my essay on the structure of 1 Thessalonians is available online as a PDF in case you ever decide to study this wonderful letter on your own. Pretty amazing to see how the paragraphs in the letter hold together and cohere. Time to keep pursuing text-based Bible study!
How's your Bible study going today?
Which book are you in?
What English versions do you enjoy using in your daily Bible reading?
8:18 AM The new year is knocking on our door. What are your goals for 2020? Lots to think about for sure. In life we tend to either burn out or rust out. Rusting out happens when you stagnate and never try anything new. Burning out happens when you continue to do and never stop to rest. I have decided that, by God's grace, I never want to rust out. I never want to stop giving the energy and discipline to trying something new. I want to chase my God-given dreams until the day I die. Do not get rusty, my friend. Use negative experiences as motivation to keep pushing forward. Failure should never frighten us. Keep trying again and again and again until you succeed.
This month and next I'll be prayerfully working on my goals for 2020. Looking forward to sharing them with my blog family. If we rest, we rust, folks. Life is about moving forward regardless of your age or circumstances. To me, there are no other options. We're not here to burn out OR rust out. Let's remind ourselves of that as we enter the new year.
P. S. In case you're interested, our new power point called Who Are the Evangelicals? It's based on Stott's magnificent book Evangelical Truth. You will notice that at the end of the power point Stott lists 12 areas of disagreement among evangelicals, ranging from baptism to the Lord's Supper and beyond. Worship style also comes up for discussion. My opinion, as a musician? Let's welcome the new styles in worship music because they are ways in which the younger generation want to express their love for God. Will the new songs last? Not many of them, I fear. The musicality? Often lacking. But I've also heard some pretty poor organ music in church. The point Stott makes is that we all must be willing to subordinate our preferences to what best serves the entire community of believers. "Unity in diversity" ought to be our hallmark. At the same time, let's be sure our church music is biblically based and theologically sound. And in the midst of it all, let love and mutual consideration continue. "May the God who gives endurance and encouragement," writes Paul, "give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 15:5-6).
Friday, November 8
6:46 PM This is Veterans Day weekend. To all who have served, thank you.
6:08 PM The word of the day, ladies and gentlemen, is "avocation." What's an avocation? Let's think of it as anything other than our "vocation." I'm a Greek professor, as you all know. That's my vocation. But today I barely touched my Greek at all. John Calvin said a lot about work but also about leisure (he allowed for recreation and sports). Avocation differs from vocation in that it's something you do alongside of your vocation. It's doing an activity you have a burning desire for. It's usually a side interest over which you exercise complete control. Life is a balancing act, folks. You can't always be pursuing your main line of action. Blessed is the man or woman with some hobby or interest aside from their main line of work. Today I dabbled in history -- World War II history to be exact. I find history to be endlessly fascinating. I read a lot of history just because I want to learn more. I remember my first visit to Kaiser Augst in Basel -- the ancient Roman ruins there. I was astonished to discover that the Roman legions had an outpost in Basel 2,000 years ago. I think experiences like that made me a history buff. I was blessed to have taken 2 outstanding courses in American history when I was a student at the University of Hawai'i. I am not content to die in ignorance of my own history. What's your avocation? The goal is to do what excites you. And the possibilities are endless.
P.S. My first glass of eggnog this season. Cheers!
12:32 PM It may be fall but it sure feels like winter. The right clothing is essential. Today I nearly froze to death while biking because I had underdressed with only 2 sweatshirts and one windbreaker. I had to stop after 20 miles because the cold was starting to penetrate to my bones.
I'm grateful for the summer months of wearing tank tops and shorts, but those days are over. Time to winterize, folks, and embrace the cold! We in the northern hemisphere are about to take the plunge, so be prepared.
7:14 AM Okay, gotta ask: How much lettuce is there in the New Testament?
6:22 AM It's official. I'm teaching Intermediate Greek Grammar during our semester break next spring. The dates are March 9-13. It'll be a marathon folks -- we meet from 8:00 - 5:00 daily. We can do this! Which book of the New Testament will we be exegeting? Clue below.
It's maybe the 8th time I've taught this New Testament epistle. The big question: Which commentary will I require for the class? I've been looking at the Life Application Commentary series. It is definitely intriguing. I'm not excited and I'm not disappointed, just intrigued you might say. I will keep you all informed.
As an FYI, my other upcoming classes include:
What an honor it is to engage the mind with students in learning Greek. Scary road? Not any more, and even back in seminary, Harry Sturz was a great role model for me when I was a fledging Greek professor. Excited to read about your academic goals and achievements on your websites!
Thursday, November 7
7:02 PM Fun time this morning at the local coffee shop getting my fill of Colombian brew as well as rereading one of the books that "got it all started" for me -- that is, got me interested in Greek linguistics way back in 1982 when I was still a student in Basel.
At that time, Greek linguistics was what we might call a "niche" field of study. This was before there were any books by Runge or Porter, back when few people were actually even talking about Greek discourse analysis or textlinguistics or verbal aspect, etc. Indeed, if New Testament Greek is a niche field of study, New Testament Greek linguistics is an even more niche field, but back then there were very few books you could read on the subject. At that time I was writing my dissertation and dabbling with this or that linguistic school (Erhardt Gütgemanns of Bonn comes to mind), but writing an entire book on Greek linguistics (as I was fortunate to have done in 1988) wasn't at all on my radar. Later I would become friends with Johannes Louw (a South African), and even today I feel like I owe him a huge debt of gratitude for the way his little book provided something to nurture my fledgling interest in Greek linguistics. I could not help being impressed with his ability to take profound concepts and explain them in terms I could understand. Over the years, his book has led many people into the study of linguistics and semantics. Some years later I was able to convince the author to write the opening chapter in my Linguistics and New Testament Interpretation, which is still in print. In the marketplace of ideas, few books have influenced me as much as Semantics of New Testament Greek has. I have been enormously helped in my understanding of how the Greek language works by the writing ministry of Johannes Louw. His scholarship is a constant challenge to the introversion of the guild. Anyway, onward and upward to the next challenge in the study of New Testament Greek.
2:48 PM Believe it or not, I have decided not to race this weekend. Running can wear us all down after a while. Walking that fine line between exercise and rest is always a work of art. That said, I'm not going to be inactive. Today I worked out for an hour at the gym and then got in an easy 5K run at the track. After all, the day was too beautiful to stay indoors. The sky especially seemed to take on an unusual texture as I was running.
My legs are beginning to feel rested again, and I know if I treat them the way they deserve to be treated, I'll be ready for my next race, which is next weekend in the great state of Georgia. Running is a wonderful thing but it always has to be balanced with rest and days of recovery. Last month (October) I managed to do 23 workouts for a total of 115 total miles, averaging 4 workouts a week, which is just about where I like things to be. Hoping all this training keeps me in good shape to be able to continue to pour my heart and soul into teaching and writing!
Wednesday, November 6
7:02 PM I'll never forget my days of surfing the Pipeline. The world's most perfect wave that is for sure. Enjoy this montage of the North Shore of O'ahu set to some very relaxing music.
6:54 PM Wonderful days on campus this week seeking that ever-elusive excellence in classroom teaching. We are not giving up. This is our moment, ladies and gentlemen, to make our mark in this world. Time to hold each other accountable and nudge each other on to fresh ideas, fresh goals, and fresh dreams for our lives. Be not afraid to fail, my friends, in your pursuit of your life endeavors. If you need a fresh start with new hopes and dreams, take it. I hope this blog will help motivate you to strive to get them. What a journey 2019 has been thus far, and it isn't over yet. Let's finish strong and enjoy the Lord in all of it. Let's soar into the New Year with Heaven's wind at our backs!
Monday, November 4
6:50 AM Today's key word is "précis." A précis is a summary or an abstract of a text or speech. Not many books have a précis. But the other night I did notice one tome on my bookshelf that had a précis. It is the second volume of Winston Churchill's classic The Second World War.
This volume is called "Their Finest Hour" -- the "Their" referring, of course, to the British people who, for a long time, stood alone against the fury of Hitler's Germany. Here's the précis to this volume.
The back-story: The Battle of France had been lost, the Battle of Britain begun. Could the British Isles hold out long enough until the wealth and might of the United States came to their aid?
I thought to myself, "What if every New Testament book had a précis like this? Written by the author himself?" My oh my. That might very well have clarified to all the main purpose and theme of that writing -- especially in books whose main idea seems a bit opaque. Philippians, I have argued, is not really about joy, which is always a byproduct of living for others. Paul's main concern in Philippians is to see that a divided church deals head-on with the divisions in its midst lest their gospel witness be hindered or even blotted out. The précis to Philippians might perhaps have read:
How the people of God,
by having the humble mind of Christ,
can set aside matters of secondary importance
and joyfully "contend with one soul for the faith of the gospel" (1:27).
We all know how divided our evangelical churches are today. Is unity possible? Is it even desirable? It all depends on what you mean by unity. Stott helpfully writes (Evangelical Truth, p. 116):
Yes! "You all are of Christ" is our true status as believers, of which "I am of Paul, I am of Peter, I am of Apollos" is a perversion. True unity is never found in a uniformity engineered by us, but in Jesus Christ. The very worst way to combat sectarianism is by starting another ism that flies in the face of the Lord Christ at the masthead. As Stott puts it, "Our disunity remains a major hindrance to our evangelism." This week in NT 2 we will be talking about how we can discern between the essentials that cannot be compromised and the adiaphora ("indifferent matters") that are of secondary importance. My hope is that we can all grow not only in our understanding but in our agreement.
Sunday, November 3
5:24 PM I'm simply at a loss for words after today's activities. What a glorious day! It all began with the City of Oaks Half Marathon at 7:00 sharp in downtown Raleigh.
As you can see, the field was a crowded one, which became obvious to me as we walked toward the starting line.
My 22nd half marathon is now official.
No, I didn't set a new PR or anything like that. Me legs were simply too tired, coming off of almost back-to-back races in Richmond and (before that) in Chicago. But overall, I was pleased with my effort today. Not anywhere near my half marathon PR of 2:27 but I'll take it, folks, I'll take it.
The best part of all was making a small contribution to UNC Cancer Hospital in Becky's memory. UNC was the host of today's half and I couldn't be prouder of that amazing organization for the way they treat their patients. Of course, life isn't only about sports. There are chores to be done, indeed many of them if you live alone on a farm with two houses. This week I'm expecting a gaggle of guests at Maple Ridge (our guest home), so I couldn't let my post-race tiredness get me down. Nope, there were lawns to mow -- which I always love doing.
Best of all is when you mow around an outbuilding constructed in the year 1790 (yes, that was even before I was born).
Then I "cleaned" Maple Ridge for our guests. I say "cleaned" in quotes because it's a single man speaking here, folks, and a man who knows next to nothing about house cleaning. This meant sweeping the floors and the stairwell.
It also meant wiping down counters and wall hangings.
Yep, a good day to strike that sometimes elusive balance between hobbies and responsibilities. Does life get any better?
Rosewood Farm, you are a beautiful place. I wouldn't trade you for the world.
Saturday, November 2
2:50 PM It hath been done as the Lord hath commanded. The bib hath been picked up.
And the Ethiopian food hath been eaten.
I'm behind in my farm chores so ... see ya!
8:56 AM Here's a fascinating lecture on the life and theology of Ulrich Zwingli. Armin Mauerhofer is one of Switzerland's most beloved theologians. He received his doctorate from the University of Bern with a dissertation on the rise of the free evangelical churches in Switzerland.
A few takeaways:
I love his teaching style, don't you? A good lecturer is oh-so-much more than just an expert in his or her subject. A good lecturer does more than convey facts. Professor Mauerhofer's enthusiasm and constant looking at his audience is truly inspiring. I'm not sure that running an entire class in lecture format is always the best thing for students, but lectures do have their place, and when we give them, let's aim for a delivery that is characterized by clarity, good organization, and rhetorical skill.
7:14 AM The UNC Half Marathon is tomorrow! Lots of rest and recovery today that is for sure. It is going to be an incredible race. The half is my all-time favorite distance in running. I'm beyond excited to toe the line and especially happy to be running in memory of Becky and to raise funds for UNC Health Care. Looks like the weather is going to hold out nicely though it will be COLD. We just keep breathing and moving forward in this world.
6:15 AM If you would, please join me in praying for pastor Tony Evans of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas and his wife Lois. Treatment is no longer an option for her cancer, and she has been released from the hospital for home care.
"Even though chemotherapy and radiation are no longer options," writes Tony, "we still have total confidence in God's ability to supernaturally intervene and do what man is unable to do."
I am not unfamiliar with Tony and Lois's plight. When your wife is facing down a terminal illness, you do the only thing you can think of: You tell God you need help. You thank Him that He knows exactly what is going on in your wife's body and you ask him to ease your anxieties. You remember His promise, "I will never fail you. I will never abandon you." You repeat daily, "The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear." You call the church elders to pray over the afflicted. You humbly ask others for their intercession.
Above all, you submit to God's kind providence. Sometimes it feels like He's not there. But He's always there. For a reason known only to Him, He sometimes chooses to intervene directly in our daily affairs, and sometimes He chooses not to do so. He saved the three men who walked in fire. But He didn't save Jesus on the cross. In my case, He took Becky home to be with Him. Yet even at the moment of death, He was there. Yes, even at the death bed of a spouse, He is there -- maybe especially there. "God is our refuge and strength. He's always ready to help in times of trouble" (Psalm 46:12).
Love and good wishes, brother Tony and sister Lois. I'm joining you in praying for healing. God is able. And may these adverse moments be enormously and outrageously hopeful for you. You can trust Him to help you fight off discouragement. For it's in these very moments that His strength moves in on our weakness.
Friday, November 1
12:38 PM Momentum is a key in life, ladies and gentlemen, and momentum is what I'm striving for as I think back on the 6 years I've lived without Becky. This is where inner strength comes into play a little bit, yes that inner virtue in our lives that allows us to accomplish our daily tasks. Momentum allows us to integrate hope into our lives in order to ease some of the pain we experience as we go through hard times of loss and sorrow. There's no sense in responding to a tragedy in such a way that only exacerbates the evil you've already experienced. In choosing to face your pain head on, you are taking your first tiny steps toward the sunrise. The pain I'm feeling this weekend at the loss of my wife reflects the joy and pleasure I felt in knowing her. Odd, isn't it, how the soul can feel both pain and joy at the same time? That's because the pain you're feeling demonstrates the supreme value of what was lost. Not that I have achieved perfect contentment or perfect momentum. I will never get there, that's for sure. What matters, as with running, is the forward movement. Death and loss require new adjustments and continued growth. We can learn to be content whether we are widowed or divorced or unemployed or even dying. We really must live this way. There is no other option. "Even the saddest things," wrote Frederick Buechner, "can become, once we have made peace with them, a source of wisdom and strength for the journey ahead." God does not erase the loss or remove the pain altogether. Becky's death to cancer will always be bad. But grace takes an evil and turns it into something that results in good.
That, today, is my story folks. Tomorrow, as I commemorate Becky's homegoing, I will love and serve God with all my heart and strength. He has filled my life with bounty, even as I continue to feel the loss. God has given me more than I deserve, even in my suffering. How will I celebrate? I will go to Raleigh and pick up my race bib and then enjoy Ethiopian food in memory of my girl from Abyssinia. To anyone who will listen, I will proclaim the comfort I have experienced knowing that the sovereign God who is in control of everything is the same God who has experienced every ounce of my pain. He is not aloof from our suffering. He is acquainted with grief. He feels the sorrow of the whole world.
Friend, as you perhaps continue to experience pain in your own life, remember that the pain will eventually subside. Today it may be shouting. But someday it will become a faint whisper. You might think this is impossible. You might think that the pain will always be unbearable. But I am here to tell you, hope will return to replace the despair. Will you ever be able to move on with your life? Yes, a thousand times, yes.
6:55 AM This Sunday, while I'm running a half marathon in Raleigh, almost 50,000 runners will be participating in the New York City Marathon, and one of them -- Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa -- will be targeting the course record if the weather cooperates.
Right now the forecast calls for near-perfect conditions on race day -- sunny skies with a high of 52 and manageable winds (6 mph). The current course record is 2:05:06. The key that everyone is talking about? The Nike Vaporfly Next Percent shoes. I will be watching with interest! I'm a huge goal setter and I love watching other people trying to reach theirs. As runners we know how important it is to set goals. They not only help us track our progress but keep us dedicated. But to find true satisfaction in running (and in life in general), our goals must be based on our own ability, not on someone else's. And we have to become experts at adjusting our goals whenever that becomes necessary. Examine your goals. Why did you pick them? Are they realistic? Are they too low or too lofty? If you fail to meet them, what is your backup plan? Remember: A goal is merely something to work toward. But it's the process of moving toward the goal that's most important. When I graduated from Basel in 1983, I set a goal of publishing 1 book every 5 years and 1 journal article or book chapter every year. That's still my goal today as an academic. On the one hand, friends, it makes no sense to set unrealistically high goals. But it also makes no sense to underestimate your God-given abilities. The one thing we must do is set our own goals. Learning to set reasonable and achievable goals has been one of the most difficult things I've had to do in life. That's one reason I love running so much. Running makes us stop and consider our goals for today, our goals for our life, our goals for ourselves. All athletes have good and bad days. When we can accept both, we are well on our way to running the race of life successfully. My strategy in life, no matter how corny it sounds, it to shoot for the stars and see just how high I can reach. And I'm beyond excited to see what the Lord has in store for me yet in life.
Cheers everyone, and thanks for joining the journey.
Thursday, October 31
5:36 PM Indian summer has arrived, with temps today in the mid-80s and the humidity very high. Good day to worm the donks and do some shopping.
Still working on this eating healthy thing. Proper recovery and fueling are essential for maintaining health before races. I am trying to learn how to cook and have some absolutely delicious recipes I want to try out. I would definitely say it's a high learning curve though. That's okay, you just keep pressing on and do your best, all the while trying to avoid fast food. We used to eat our own farm raised goat meat and beef, but those days are long gone and, in fact, I actually eat very little red meat these days. Again, balance is the key. I don't completely avoid comfort food like chips and dip but try to focus on fresh vegetables and chicken. Mexican food, I still love you and will definitely indulge you again in the near future!
11:12 AM Time for a brief miscellaneous update? First, I just added this book to my stack of books-to-read.
I'm really interested to see what Jenny says about the use of the article with names in the book of Acts. Just a pet interest of mine I guess. Second, the grass is getting green again folks, it's getting green!
Thank the Lord for sending us some much needed rain in the past week or so. Am I the only one who noticed the lack of moisture for the past month and a half? Time to soak up the rain for all it's worth, my friends, and it couldn't come at a better time. I'll take another two inches, but I'm so grateful for what we've gotten so far. Finally, as I usually do on Thursday mornings, I lifted today, having become a firm believer that strength training can help keep you injury free.
It definitely helps my running, makes me feel stronger, plus it's amazing for one's mental well-being. I feel it helps a lot during the later stages of a long race like a half marathon, preventing my posture from breaking down too much and helping me maintain a good arm swing even if I'm tired. Strength training is absolutely key for anyone wanting to get into shape. Nothing new here I know, but that's my routine.
Time for lunch!
6:58 AM The mid-semester slump is upon us, and almost everyone is feeling it. How do we as husbands and wives and fathers and mothers and students and teachers and runners and creators maintain balance in life? It's all about maintaining simple priorities, and to do that you have to have discernment. I'm someone who thrives on structure, so for me having a daily routine works best. If I do "first things first" -- coffee, Bible reading, blogging, breakfast -- I feel more productive for the rest of the day. I also make sure I'm pursuing my personal goals and they include healthy fun activities. Exercise does not have the highest priority in my life but it's something I enjoy doing. During the "slumps" of life we need to say no to lower priority things for sure. For me, running is never a chore because it intertwines with my everyday life.
6:20 AM The "Question of the Day" on this Reformation Day: Who is your favorite magisterial reformer? Mine is obviously Zwingli since I once lived in German-speaking Switzerland.
From his birthplace in Wildhaus, to Constance where he was ordained a priest, to Basel where he studied, to Glarus where he held his first pastorate, to Einsiedeln where he perfected his Greek, to the Grossmünster in Zürich, and -- sadly -- to the Kappel battlefield where he died defending his beloved canton, I have seen it all. It was in Bible studies with Zwingli that my spiritual forebears the Anabaptists began to form their views of a believers' church. This is one of many reasons Why I Love the Anabaptists. It's often true, folks, that pupils go further than their teachers, hopefully in the right direction. That's one reason I love teaching so much, knowing that I am passing the baton to a new generation who will be even better equipped that I am to take the Gospel to the nations.
Wednesday, October 30
7:14 PM Curveballs, they are a part of life, folks. On Nov. 2, 2013, I was thrown a curveball. Thankfully the Lord knows a lot about the curveballs of life, and He's seen me through. To commemorate Becky's life, and to thank the staff at UNC Cancer Hospital for the excellent care they gave us for 4 years, I’ve decided to run in this weekend's UNC Healthcare Half Marathon in Raleigh and to make a donation to UNC in memory of Becky.
Training for the event is now in process. Near perfect weather is predicted for race day, with sunny skies and temperatures in the upper 50s. This is going to be fun! And by the way, thanks for your prayers. We all get tired at times in the race of life. As Christians, we must realize that the Christian life isn't easy. We must continue to work hard and overcome. Today is the day to look unto Jesus, the one who designed the race course and who stands at the finish line with open arms, cheering us on.
7:06 PM Brisket always inspires devotion, and yesterday was no exception as Ben Merkle and I went out for lunch at Brigs in Wake Forest. We both ordered brisket. Beef brisket (sorry you pork lovers) is the ultimate lunch meat.
Our tender, loving efforts to devour our sandwiches were interrupted by occasional forays into a discussion of Greek or the book on linguistics we're co-editing, but brisket was never far from our minds. Yes, folks, brisket will be in heaven, guaranteed.
Monday, October 28
6:45 AM Six years ago this coming Saturday, the Lord Jesus welcomed Becky home. The morning of her passing was, as I recall, dark and a bit cloudy. With the sun barely peeking over the eastern sky, the farm was as tranquil as I ever knew it to be. While I felt a great loss at Becky's death, I knew she was glad to be where she was. I thought of her brave battle with cancer. Like a difficult trail run, each step of her cancer journey was unpredictable and sometimes dangerous. When she could no longer run, we ran for her. Later, I would learn how to literally run. It seemed to be exactly what my ailing spirit needed. Every time I crossed the finish line, I felt renewed. It's true that we want to avoid the storms of life because they are powerful and frightening. We can't control them, and so we fear them. Running has become a way for me to chase down my fears. I realize that running helps me to endure the storms and come away stronger on the other side of the finish line. Just like the giant trees on the farm, storms make us stronger. We would all desire a life without storms, yet ironically we need them. Life always goes on after a storm. The air is somehow cleaner, and the pastures are replenished.
As you can see, I'm kinda sentimental today. Probably be like this all week. Grateful for you all taking a moment to read. Most important to me is knowing where Becky went on Nov. 2, 2013. Just one more thing to be grateful for. I have been changed forever by Becky's passing. I am not the same person as when I last held her hand. I'm a blessed man filled with love. Now I know that attaining any goal is possible as long as I do it step by step with God's help and with my family at my side. Family and friends are a big key for the journey of life. Love them unconditionally, and watch beauty fly onward.
Sunday, October 27
6:04 PM Fort Benning, yes famous Fort Benning, the "Home of the Infantry," will, God willing, be the site of my next race on Nov. 16, the 19th annual Soldier Marathon that starts at the historic National Infantry Museum in Columbus, GA.
Race options include the full marathon, the half marathon, and the 5K, and it's this latter race I've signed up for along with my daughter and her husband who is stationed at Fort Benning. Yes, I can't wait to toe the line against some hefty competition! Then, on Nov. 23, I hope to participate in the 10th annual Chestnut Ridge Trail Run in Efland, NC. The course features rolling hills through hardwood forests and offers both a 4 mile and 10 mile option. Trail runs are not, I repeat NOT, for the faint of heart. Patience and fortitude are the keys to finishing a trail race. As I continue to dabble in trail running I do look forward to testing my physical and mental limits. My 31-mile ultra trail run in Farmville a year ago was one little step in the right direction I do believe. A lot of mental focus and toughness will be required on race day. Am I up to the task? We'll find out.
Karen and Tino, can't wait to see you again in the great state of Georgia!
8:18 AM Yesterday, one of my doctoral students emailed me a link to Roland Allen's classic Missionary Methods: St. Paul's or Ours?
You can now read the entire book online for free. I always require this as a textbook in my New Testament 2 classes when we're studying the book of Acts. We need to rediscover New Testament principles of evangelism and church planting. Praise the Lord, this is one book all agree points us in the right direction.
7:55 AM Preparations for tomorrow night's Advanced Greek Grammar class are now in full swing. We will be discussing A. T. Robertson's chapter on "The Article," Steve Runge's chapter on "Left-Dislocations," Stephen Levinsohn's chapter on "Discourse Analysis" in my and Ben Merkle's forthcoming book for Baker, Johannes Louw's "Reading a Text as Discourse" in my Linguistics and New Testament Interpretation, and finally my essay in the latter volume called "Discourse Analysis, Synoptic Criticism, and Markan Grammar: Some Methodological Considerations." Our guest speaker for the evening will be my colleague Ben Holloway, lecturing on "Language and the Existence of God." Along the way I'll have a few more things to say about verbal aspect now that our Power Point on the topic is almost complete. With the semester halfway over it's time to build a strong foundation and prepare a sound and timely approach to the subject of the Greek verb. NOW is the time, folks, to keep pushing forward in our understanding of Greek and its intersection with linguistics. My own approach to verbal aspect is nothing earth-shattering, but there are a few hidden wrinkles that could help out all the Greek students out there. Language study is a fine art. It must be executed with incredible precision. The same is true of any endeavor in life, including the art and science of running. If you take care to prepare thoroughly, the race will go well.
Saturday, October 26
6:38 PM We are moving on up in the running regimen this fall, with an attempt to break my 10 mile record in Richmond today. I was grateful to have the health and the early wake-up opportunity this beautiful morning to try and get a new PR on the books.
It was a fun day on the Virginia Capital Trail, reconnecting with a place where I've ridden my road bike many a time.
As you can see, the course elevation left much to be desired (I don't like hills very much), so it was a bit iffy as to the outcome.
Of the 7 ten mile races I did prior to coming into today's event, my last PR of 2:04 was set a month ago at the Virginia 10 Miler in Lynchburg.
I am beyond excited to report that today God enabled me to crush my old PR by about 12 minutes.
We will take it everyone, we will take it. Exciting day for sure out on the trail and I look forward to sharing more races with all of you in the coming weeks as we push on into 2020.
Thanks for tuning in everybody. Training and racing marches on into the fall and winter months.
P.S. My Garmin watch is notoriously unreliable for its VO2Max data but at least it provides a good laugh.
5:20 AM Where will you be worshiping God this weekend? That's not the same thing as asking, "Where will you go to church tomorrow?" Today I will worship God by running a race and then doing yard work before getting some writing done. True worship includes praising God in song on Sunday morning, but it has to go further than that. True worship, as John 4 teaches (cf. Rom. 12:1-2), is the offering to God of all that we have and is in response to all that God has done for us through Jesus Christ our Lord. Anyone can sing praises on Sunday morning. But it's another thing altogether to worship God on Saturday night or Monday morning when you're surrounded by friends who perhaps have no desire to live for God. In other words, a church's "worship" can never be judged by what happens on Sunday morning. In fact, we do not go to church to worship God; we go to encourage one another (see 1 Cor. 14:26). Howard Marshall has written ("How Far Did the Early Christians Worship God?", Churchman 99  p. 220):
So the correct answer to the question "Where do you worship?" is not "_________ Community Church" but "everywhere."
The Bible insists that worship consists of the whole of life.
Even running a race.
Friday, October 25
6:10 PM The key word for today is "leftovers." What are some leftover goals you have for the year 2019? The brain is definitely a goal-seeking organism. When your goals sink into your unconscious mind, you will work night and day to achieve them.
I've definitely had a good year so far. I've had some challenges, of course, as we all have. I wish I could eat cleaner. My house is not always picked up. I wish I could eat out less. On the other hand, I got a chance to teach some wonderful classes. I was able to do some pretty awesome marathons, including one in Phoenix. The linguistics conference on campus that we helped to organize was a genuine blessing. Surfing in Hawai'i is always a blast. But goals for 2019? I still have some. I'd like my blogging to improve. I want my posts to have a tighter "focus" that keeps them from meandering too much or becoming too wordy. I don't want to publish posts that don't have a clear vision for what I'm trying to accomplish here. In short, I want to be consistent while still having fun. I have other 2019 goals as well. I want to do a thorough de-cluttering of my office, create a more efficient way of handling my emails, spend more time with my grandchildren, complete the new landscaping in my backyard, lose 10 pounds, take a long road trip, learn to speak Spanish better, say "Thank you" more often, increase my daily water intake, eat less salt, learn a few new computer skills, and plan for a productive and meaningful 2020. I have one guiding principle in setting my goals. I want to reach the God-given limit of what's possible in my life. Not all that long ago I set as a goal "to run a marathon." At the time it seemed like an audacious or even unrealistic goal. Maybe your goal is to walk two times a week. It all depends on what you want to accomplish in life. I like to stay clam, reflect on my journey thus far, be grateful for all the blessings of life, be comfortable in my own skin, and focus on keeping in step with the Lord. Right now, though, I have got to cook supper and fuel up this old body of mine. Tomorrow's another big race day.
Happy rest-of-2019 goal setting, folks!
8:50 AM Read: Philippians, Missions, and You.
8:36 AM On my reading desk:
So many good, God things are happening today in Greek studies that's for sure. As Con Campbell puts it on the last page of his Advances in the Study of Greek:
Will you heed that call? I hope so!
7:55 AM Giving thanks....
I am thankful for the classroom. For 43 years the Lord has given me the privilege of training students to follow Jesus in obedience and love. These have been the very best years of my life. In fact, I am more passionate about the classroom today than I was when I first entered Sutherland Hall at Biola in 1976. Each week is a new joy as well as a challenge to be the best I can be.
I am thankful for the men and women where I teach. You are literally the best people I know. You love Jesus and the lost so well I can't believe it. Thank you for believing in me and making me braver and better.
I am thankful for a family that still doesn't quite understand this crazy passion I have to run races but who love and support me anyway. It's an honor to be part of this brood.
I am thankful for my wife of 37 years. In one week we will be commemorating her passing 6 years ago. I am a better man because of her. Even her passing has been a blessing in disguise as it forced me to push myself beyond what was easy and comfortable.
I am thankful for close friends who keep prodding me forward. To the Corinthians Paul said, after spending one and a half years with them, "You've seen my life. Now follow me." I am convinced that God has given me these friends to be an example and an encouragement.
I am thankful that my cooking is no longer a complete disaster. My chicken tikka masala is so good you can't believe it. Cooking warrior I am not, but at least I've got one meal down pat.
I am thankful for you, my wonderful blog readers. I am so for you. I'd like to think that sometime during our day we can come together and lean on each other for rest and encouragement. Let's continue to point each other to God.
I am thankful that the kingdom is simple:
Thursday, October 24
7:06 PM When you clear cut your pines and hardwoods, you get this:
For years I was never able to enjoy the sunset in the West. That's all changed. I like to spend part of every evening outdoors with the animals and nature. I like to listen to my soul and take time to converse with the Creator. I like to say that farm life is hard work but good work. It usually puts you to bed with a good tired if you know what I mean. Getting out of doors on a regular basis -- so key for long term physical and mental health.
1:44 PM Today's key word is "setback." We all face curveballs in life -- times when we hit an unexpected pothole or are dealt a lousy deck of cards. Five months ago, after running my 15th marathon, I noticed some irregular heart beats. That began a long series of trips to various specialists including cardiologists, sports physiologists, and neurologists. I've been really impressed with the expertise of all of my physicians. Today I had my 5-month follow up with my cardiologist and, thank the Lord, the report card came back with an "A+." Running injuries happen to all of us. I've used this time to try and figure out how I can avoid a repetition of the same thing going forward. The bottom line is that I was not overtraining but over-racing. Four or five marathons a year turned out to place a bit too much stress on my cardiovascular system. So, with the doctors' blessings, I will continue to run marathons but just not so many each year.
Folks, life is a learning curve. Setbacks are just part of life's journey. When you face a curveball, you take it one day at a time and one step at a time. You seek professional care and then you move forward, this time with a bit more wisdom hopefully. Cross training is now a huge part of my weekly workout routine. My schedule now has me running no more than 3 times a week, then lifting twice a week. If I can get in a bike now and again, so much the better. Today, for example, I worked out for an hour at the Y.
It was also time to renew my annual membership. For only $420.00 per year I can enjoy some outstanding facilities. If you work out a mere two times each week, that amounts to less than 4 bucks a visit. That's pretty phenomenal. Moreover, Y membership is nationwide, so you can visit a gym wherever you travel in the U.S. After my workout I did another 5 miles at the track.
This time I picked up my pace just a tad from yesterday.
Just trying to stay on my A-game before Saturday's big race in Richmond. After I got back to the farm I rolled out my legs and did some stretching. Foam rolling has become a key ingredient in my race preparation.
Time now to get some rest before getting back out into the great outdoors to mow the yards. Today's weather is some of the nicest I've seen in a very long time. Health is awaiting all of us. You just have to go out and get it!
6:55 AM Here's another new Power Point, this time on Eph. 5:15-24, showing that we can't teach on Christian marriage without at least beginning with a discussion of the filling of the Spirit in 5:18, because that's where Paul starts. The theme of wise and Spirit-filled living begun in 5:15 is now applied to special groups: wives and husbands (5:22-33), children and their parents (6:1-4), and slaves and their masters (6:5-9). Nor can we begin a new thought unit in 5:21, as though "submitting" is a finite verb: "submit." "Submitting" is a participal that relates back to the main verbs in 5:18. This doesn't mean that there's no shift in Paul's thinking at 5:22, where he begins his discussion of Christian marriage. But this shift must never become a separation from the preceding context. Success in marriage is impossible without Spirit-filled living. Thousands of times in a marriage we have to choose to go our way or the Spirit's way, to choose our happiness or the other's happiness, to tear down or to build up. Marriage is hard work but it's good work. And it works best when two people are regularly getting over themselves and living a Spirit-filled, other-centered life.
Wednesday, October 23
6:16 PM My new Power Point on verbal aspect has finally been published. You'll understand why I'm so excited about it when you open it. It's not quite complete. I need to add Wallace and Porter. It's time to play it smart folks when it comes to verbal aspect. More to come for sure. I've also been going through a grammar of Koine Greek written in Modern Greek.
Earlier today I got in an easy 5-mile run at Joyner Park in Wake Forest.
We train slow to run fast, folks. I can't wait to see if my training pays off this Saturday when I join a few hundred other runners to race 10 miles on the historic Virginia Capital Trail. The VCT is a 52-mile multi-use trail connecting Richmond with Jamestown. I've biked all 52 miles of it twice, but this will be my first time running it. I'll do another 5 miles tomorrow, Lord willing, and then after that no more running until Saturday's race. As runners we need to always watch out for the signs of overtraining and burnout. Running must always be balanced with proper rest. The key to running for the rest of your life is not just discipline but being smart!
Tonight I'm gelling after 3 long days of teaching and meetings. Time to rest and recover from the effort teachers put into their classes. I can't wait to share with you some of the things I'm learning about verbal aspect. I've even toying with the idea of putting my thoughts into a journal article. Stay tuned!
Monday, October 21
7:56 AM The perfect tense. That's our topic in tonight's Advanced Greek Grammar class. There's always more to learn, folks. But you have to keep abreast of current scholarship. This is one book we'll be talking about tonight for sure.
It's the first full-scale reference grammar of Classical Greek in a century. Though I'm not familiar with any of the authors, they must be accomplished Greek scholars by virtue of their being chosen to produce this massive 811-page volume. I am finding some inconsistencies, however, and one of them has to do with the perfect tense. In introducing "aspect" (p. 406), the authors pretty much tow the party line in writing that the present stem presents an action as incomplete. "This is called imperfective aspect." Then they write that the aorist stem presents an action as complete, that is, as a single (uninterruptable) whole. "This is called perfective aspect." Finally, they say that perfect stems present action as a state resulting from a preceding completed action -- a very traditional way of looking at the perfect tense but one with which I happen to agree. Curiously, here there is no "This is called___________ aspect." In fact, I have yet to find a reference anywhere in the book to the term they use to describe this third aspect in Greek. I've asked my assistant to contact the authors for an explanation. If I were to venture a guess, I think it might be because they have already used the term "perfective" for the aorist tense stems and are therefore unable to use the traditional "perfective" for the perfect tense stems. But we'll find out. It's never safe to speculate what an author is thinking.
At the end of the day we never stop learning. It's the joy of education that keeps us going. Boredom does not creep in when you're having fun!
6:30 AM Our key word for today is "stages." When I give someone a copy of my wife's book My Life Story, I will often turn to the photo of us when we were just married and say, "That was her first husband." At first people will look at me with a quizzical stare, but soon they get the joke. Everything in life goes through stages, folks, including marriage. In 37 years of marriage I would say that Becky had three or maybe four husbands. Hopefully we all grow and mature as husbands. After decades of marriage, "knowing" each other has a far deeper meaning. You have made a conscious choice to be together despite your faults and foibles galore. The goal is a true partnership and, I would add, a partnership in the Gospel if you are a Christian couple. Take a few minutes and jot down five specific areas in your life you'd like to grow in this year, using a short word or phrase. Talk to God about overcoming inertia and about helping you reach these goals. And remember: God has a lot at stake in your growth too. He's there through every stage of life you will ever experience, rooting for you to succeed. Now is the time to take your next step, to seize the day if you will, without hesitation. Are we done growing? Certainly not, certainly not!
Sunday, October 20
5:28 PM In my little talk this morning I referred to Eph. 3:8, where Paul calls himself the "very least (Greek: leaster) of all the saints." In his excellent commentary, William Hendricksen says that Paul is probably thinking back to "his former life as a persecutor of the church" (p. 156). Our limitations are not liabilities to our God. He recruits the most surprising people. No handicap from the past hinders Him. "God has chosen things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important." So if you expect other people not to let you down, you can expect to be disappointed. Corrie ten Boom's famous quote came to mind this morning during my talk:
Look inside and be depressed.
Look outside and be distressed.
Look to Him and be at rest.
Friends, all of us are flawed. We need to accept other people for who they are: people who are basically just like us.
P.S. There's only one commentary set I recommend in its entirety, and it's the one by Hendricksen. Oh my, what a great author with both a brilliant mind and the heart of a pastor. Rare combination these days it seems to me.
12:30 PM My message this morning was from Josh. 3:1-3 and was titled "The God of the Impossible." Along with the children of Israel, we metaphorically camped out for 3 days on the eastern shore of the Jordan River and watched a river at flood stage, thinking to ourselves, "Ain't no way anyone can cross this river, not here, not now!" Still, we carry on, keeping our eyes squarely focused on "the box" -- the ark of the covenant of the Lord our God (the ark being one of greatest types of Christ in the Old Testament).
It was pure joy getting to know these young adults from Cary, NC. The world needs more men and women like them.
8:15 AM Luke 3:23 was our text last night as we took a whirlwind excursion through the "Age Thirty Transition" of Jesus and then applied it to our lives.
Studying the life of Jesus will wake you up that is for sure. Overall, I do not believe we understand the implications of the decision Jesus made to close the door on His childhood home never again to return. He had made the "age thirty transition" and had begun a journey that tried His will and tested His endurance but He was faithful to the end. Now we are called to be His followers and imitators. He loves us and is on our side, in spite of all our failures and weaknesses. Our commitment is to do nothing but the will of the Master.
Saturday, October 19
5:12 PM From the archives: Mark's Theology of the Cross.
4:54 PM Been in 1 Cor. 12 this afternoon. Let's always remember that the church has many members with differing gifts. When each member cooperates with all the others, God is honored and the Gospel moves forward. We work together, folks, we just keep working together. But we have to be aware of three dangers: giving credit to ourselves for our gifts, failing to use our gifts for the benefit of the entire church, and thinking that we are of no benefit to the church at all. Our thought must always be: "I have received a special gift from the Holy Spirit, be it great or small, and so I must use it as He requires." The benefit of all -- that's the goal.
Onward, upward, and forward indeed.
12:06 PM Throwing out the myth of adolescence -- a key ingredient for all believers to consider in their study of the Bible. In fact, understanding the human developmental cycle, I would argue, cannot be complete without taking a very close look at Jesus' own stages of human development. Remember: If Jesus is 100 percent God, He is also 100 percent man. My game plan for this morning's session was to introduce my audience to Jesus' own developmental cycle, especially as it pertains to raising children in today's society. I will now wait until this evening to finish with Jesus' age 30 transition, the time when He began His public ministry. By pressing the envelope of our understanding of Jesus' earthly life, we will be better able to understand such key passages as 1 Cor. 13:11, 1 Tim. 4:12, and 1 John 2:12-14. Stay tuned for another report later tonight, Lord willing.
9:05 AM Oh my. The Amsterdam Marathon is tomorrow. The weather will be perfect. It should be an epic race. Keep your eyes on two East Africans to break the course record: Kenenisa Bekele and Lawrence Cherono. In the women's lineup, Ethiopian Meseret Defar will be making her long-awaited marathon debut. The race will be viewed live in 120 countries. What an inspiration for adult-onset athletes like myself! The love of running unites us. And you know what? You can be one of us. You too can push your limits to new highs and lows. Nothing keeps you from joining the ranks of those who have found regular exercise to be fun and healthy except your own belief that you can't.
Amsterdam, by the way, is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The marathon allows you to see 26.2 miles of it. Hmm. Maybe next year?
8:04 AM Today's key word is "strategy." The mental strategy for doing missions is very complicated and vast. Or it is? I frankly do not have all the answers to this question. At the end of the day, it's all about living sacrificially for others. Especially when you live in the West where we enjoy so much wealth. That's why we gave a copy of my book Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions to everyone in attendance last night at the retreat. A heartbeat for world evangelism pulses on every page of the New Testament. That's what it means to be a follower of the Lord Jesus in the 21st century, I argued. We must forsake our fascination with material prosperity and personal pleasure and turn to Christ with all our hearts. That is the only path to true happiness and fulfillment, folks. Our Western culture contrasts so directly with the lifestyle our Lord commands. Unless we have travelled to places like India, we simply cannot comprehend the situation in the sin-blighted countries of the Majority World. The fields of lost souls are white unto harvest. God is not asking us to give money to missions but to make missions the central passion of our lives. We should be willing to exchange everything and anything we have for the pearl of great price, the kingdom of God. For the man or woman whom God uses there can be no other way.
Today my topics are "Jesus and the Age 12 Transition" and "Jesus and the Age Thirty Transition."
Live on mission.
P.S. Never tire of watching the sun rise over the pond. Never.
7:34 AM If you're using our beginning grammar here's a nifty little cheat sheet for chapter 7 prepared by my assistant. Thanks, Rodolfo!
Friday, October 18
10:44 PM This weekend I'm speaking 4 times at a college-career retreat at a nearby camp. Tonight was session #1.
Great chance to remind these twenty- and thirty-somethings that:
I pose to all of you what I pose to myself: "Am I living for what really counts in life?" We march on, folks, fighting for what's of eternal value. Let us run on to our lofty goals, one step at a time, one day at a time. For this world is not our home.
12:42 PM Was great to be outdoors on this perfect fall day and get in 5 miles at the Tobacco Heritage Trail.
We must not forget that being in nature allows us to unhitch from the craziness of urban living. Detachment from smart phones and even people is a beautiful thing if you can find it. Let's enjoy God's nature when we can, people!
Here, by the way, is a solid example of the Greek perfect tense. In 1 Cor. 15:3-6 Paul defines the Gospel by using 4 verbs:
Which of these verbs is in the perfect tense do you think? Remember: The perfect tense indicates a completed action whose effects are felt in the present.
We might render Paul's Greek as follows (compare the ISV):
Yes, this is a bit of a paraphrase, but not much. Gordon Fee (1 Corinthians, p. 726) has written: "The verb in this instance is the perfect passive ('he has been raised'), implying that he was both raised from the dead and still lives" (italics his). In Ann Groton's beginning Greek grammar (referred to below), we read (p. 123):
Hence Pheidippedes' famous pronouncement after the Battle of Marathon:
We could even render this as "We are victorious!" Here the perfect tense focuses on the result or the state following the completion of an activity. An example I heard on YouTube just this morning was in an interview with a former White House lawyer. He was introduced, not as someone who "served in the White House" but as someone who "has served in the White House." The focus is on the result or state in the present time.
More later on imperfective and aoristic aspect. Ever onward and upward, folks!
8:55 AM Preparations for my Advanced Greek Grammar class next Monday night are in full swing here at Rosewood Farm. Our topic is verbal aspect, and my what a huge topic it is. This morning I took a spin through all of the beginning and intermediate grammars I own (both Classical and Koine) and am amazed at how much agreement there is despite superficial disagreements. My thoughts on the subject in brief:
There are three aspects in Greek. I call them imperfective, perfective, and aoristic. Of these, aoristic aspect is the default. An aoristic action is one that the speaker perceives not as an action occurring over time or as a completed action but as a mere occurrence. Aoristic aspect by itself does not specific whether the action is/was/will be prolonged, repeated, or finished -- hence the name aoristos, "undefined."
I continue to use "aoristic" (instead of "perfective") to describe this category of aspect for two reasons. (1) The term perfective is too easily confused with the Greek perfect tense system, and (2) imperfective (incomplete) aspect and perfective (completed) aspect are binary opposites. One grammar I read this morning admits as much when it observes that the word "imperfective" derives from the Latin word imperfectivum, "not completed." Then what should "perfective" (Latin perfectivum) mean other than "completed"? But when discussing the Greek perfect tense, the later grammar says nothing about the Latin word perfectivum, "completed"! For the sake of simple consistency, then, I retain the more traditional use of "perfective." As I said above, perfective aspect (remember: I'm using the term with reference to the Greek perfect tense system) is the logical opposite of imperfective aspect.
By the way, I'm not the only one who still uses the term aoristic to refer to the aorist tense system in Greek. In her recently published grammar From Alpha to Omega: A Beginning Course in Classical Greek, Anne Groton writes (p. 15): "A Greek verb has one of three possible aspects: imperfective, aoristic, or perfective." I would simply ask: Isn't there less terminological confusion if we say, for example, that the perfect tense indicates perfective aspect, and the aorist tense indicates aoristic aspect?
Okay, time to get out of the house and do my farm chores. I'll conclude with a summary:
Grammatical aspect in Greek concerns the way an action is presented or regarded.
Put another way:
Make sense? Hmm, maybe not. Let's summarize matters even more simply:
Thanks for tuning in, everyone. I hope you found this useful. I'll try and give some illustrations later. But now it's time to enjoy the great outdoors.
Thursday, October 17
12:28 PM Took my running shoes out today for a quick spin at the local high school track. Today was a great test of my overall fitness and endurance after Sunday's race.
I'm truly thrilled and grateful to be able to run again so quickly after that effort. Overall I'm pleased with how my legs have recovered after the marathon. Earlier I spent 45 minutes at the Y doing some weight lifting with my trainer.
I am excited to put down some more good training this week with perhaps a bit more intensity at the end of the week. Stay tuned for more training updates.
P.S. Got word today that my esteemed New Testament colleague Ulrich Luz of the University of Bern (Switzerland) has passed away at the age of 81.
An online obituary refers to him as an "innovatinen, international angesehenen Forscher und engagierten Lehrer" (an innovative, internationally renowned researcher and an engaged teacher). He and I share the joy and honor of having studied in Basel. This was also said of him: "Luz publizierte bis ins hohe Alter" (Luz published well into old age). He was perhaps best known for his work on the Gospel according to Matthew. Requiescat in pace, Professor Luz. Your legacy will not be soon forgotten.
6:20 AM Today's word is "niche." What is your niche in sports? When it comes to exercise, we all need an outlet in life. I know I do. I love competing and pushing myself. The key question is, what are your strengths? Plus, what are your main interests? Frankly, I've made a couple of mistakes in my ever-so-short life as a runner by not focusing on what I enjoy the most. An example might be the marathon distance. As you know, I just completed my 16th marathon. I ran my first one in Cincinnati 3 years ago. Between then and now I sort of got carried away by that distance and even ran a couple of back-to-back marathons (as in only 2 weeks apart). What do I like most about marathons? I love the challenge for sure. I also love the unknown. No matter how good you feel going into a 26.2 mile race, you never know how your body will do at around mile 20. So that's pretty exciting. I also enjoy seeing how quickly my body takes to recover after a big race. So there's a lot to like about the marathon distance. The downside is that a marathon beats you up pretty good, especially if you like to push yourself hard. Will I run another marathon? Probably. In fact, I'm looking at several possibilities for 2020 as I type. But to be honest, I don't think the marathon is my niche if you know what I'm saying. I'm just not built for the marathon.
That leaves me with other distances: 5K, 10K, 10-miler, half marathon, and the ultra. I enjoy all of these distances, but I'd have to say that my favorite -- my "niche" perhaps -- is the 13.1 mile half marathon. Not sure why. Maybe it's because after 3 years of running I can finally run an entire half without having to walk. Maybe it's because the distance is better suited for my body type. Probably a big reason is that a half marathon is much easier on your body than a full is. So, while the marathon seems to be a be a "bridge too far" so to speak, and the 5K too short, the half seems to be just right.
What about trail races? Oh my, I love these events. The ones I've done so far have ranged anywhere from the 5K to the half marathon distance. Today I'll be checking out the trail runs in my area (that is, within a 100 mile radius from the farm) and hopefully I can find a race that's not too far a drive to start out the fall running season.
Other areas of our lives besides sports require us to think in terms of "niche." As a writer of textbooks, I'm naturally drawn to what I call the academic/popular genre. That's not to say I don't enjoy the strictly academic essay or book. Early on in my career I focused articles and books on narrow and often highly technical subjects. I suppose I did this partly because success in my profession depends on targeting academic journals and publishing houses, getting your work through the peer review process, and hopefully contributing to the academy in a helpful way. The problem is, very few people actually read the highly technical book or journal article. Even fulltime scholars rarely have the time to keep up with all the literature in their own field. I think this is where popular writing comes in. In fact, I believe my second book (after my dissertation) was a step in this direction. The fact that Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek is still in print 31 years after it was first published speaks to what is perhaps a felt need for academic writings that appeal to the normal everyday student. Whenever I write, I try to imagine that my audience is a busy seminary student rather than an academic. I try to avoid writing that is too technical. Above all, I strive to avoid being boring. Some authors (N. T. Wright and John Stott, for example) are experts at using language that is understandable. They focus on readability as well as on solid content. They write for a mass market. The result, if you will, are more "eyeballs."
"Niche." What's yours, as an athlete or a teacher or whatever? Believe me, I'm still in the discovery process myself. And let me add: at the end of the day we might just discover that we really don't have a niche at all. Instead, we love doing it all. People often look down on the "jack of all trades," but there are certain advantages to being able to do several things competently. There's nothing wrong, folks, with what I call "dabbling." Still today, at the age of 67, I'm trying to learn new things, including how to cook decent meals, how to clean the house, how to speak Spanish correctly (instead of my horrible Spanglish), how to run efficiently, etc. Being a jack of all trades doesn't necessarily mean you're a master of none. Just don't try and force yourself into a square hole if you're a round peg.
I wish all of you the best as you pursue your life goals and incorporate discipline and virtue into your daily living. Now go out and do something you enjoy!
Wednesday, October 16
6:40 PM Greetings, internet family! My, what a great weekend it was for the marathon. First of all, congratulations to Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya for breaking the 2 hour barrier in a phenomenal effort in Vienna on Saturday.
What a memorable moment it was as he crossed the finish line. That's right, ladies and gentlemen, Kipchoge now ranks among the greatest athletes of all time along with Roger Bannister, Edmund Hillary, Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, Lebron, and Pele. Once again, it was a team effort. There were 41 pacemakers that helped him reach his goal by creating, in essence, a miniature wind tunnel for him to run in – a reminder that we need each other in this challenging world we live in. Also, Kipchoge never knew his father, but thankfully his coach became a father figure for him. If you grew up without a dad in your life as I did, you know just how important that is. You play the hand you're dealt, folks, trusting the Lord every step of the way. Second, during Sunday's Chicago Marathon, the women's world record in the marathon was smashed by Brigid Kosgei, also of Kenya.
The height of human ability is wrapped up in the breath and soul of this woman. I wish I could say I helped her to accomplish her feat but I was still several hours behind when she crossed the finish line. A solid weekend for the marathon for sure – every accomplishment a pure gift from God even if it's not always recognized as such. Glad I could be along for the ride.
Pursuing my passions and hopefully never rusting out -- that's my goal these days. Trust me, the marathon is no joke, and I will certainly return for more punishment in the future.
But for now it's eating Mexican food and soaking in the memories of my race in the Windy City.
Thank you for reading. Cheers everyone, and see you soon.
Friday, October 11
8:18 AM Off to an adventure with my running shoes. That's right, the world's least athletic person is running "America's Marathon"! Time to see if all those training miles will pay off.
Today's key word is "courage." When I was in high school, I felt invincible. Life was going to be a smooth highway, remember? Then reality kicked in. Regrets. Old wounds. Disappointments. Loss and pain. Bad memories. You feel swallowed up by the world you were supposed to have by the tail. Dwelling on the past has a cumulative negative effect. That's why the Scriptures encourage us to dwell instead on the positives -- on the grand future that God has in store for us. He wants us to experience the "riches of His glory" that He's planned for us from the beginning of time. He understands that we are often hesitant to move forward because of past regrets. Fact is, He's got some surprises up His sleeve that will boggle our mind. I never once thought I would run a marathon, let alone 16 of them. Little did I realize when Becky passed away that God was scouting up ahead. "The Lord will go ahead of you," says Isaiah. "I know the plans I have for you ... to give you a future and a hope," wrote Jeremiah. God can take our brokenness and make something positive out of it. If it's self pity you're after, it can easily be had. But if you are to move forward in life, no matter what the goal is, you'll need all the courage you can muster to fight on. But you must rely on God. You must believe that He knows what's best for you.
Think of your past with all of its regrets and sorrows. Now let those memories give you fuel to begin to carve out your true identity on this earth. Indeed, God has a plan for your life that exceeds your wildest imaginations. And He's willing and able to guide you toward that destination.
Onward and upward everyone. See you after the race!
P.S. Fun facts about the 2019 Chicago Marathon:
Thursday, October 10
4:30 PM Chicago update: After an upper body workout at the Y, I attempted to get in an easy 3 mile run at the local high school track but was unsuccessful. I was barely able to manage a 2 mile walk. Yesterday's test has left me very sore and my right calf muscle feels like it's been pulled. Just another reminder that running involves injuries -- even those induced by others -- but they can be overcome with a combination of patience and grit. You must be tough to do this sport, that's for sure, if you want to truly be your best. Time to take everything in stride. The Lord knew this would happen and He isn't surprised! I understand that this sport of running comes with its risks that are sometime unavoidable even when you're trying to be ever so careful. Onward we go along this running journey.
Right now I need to lay out my running outfit for the race, trying to keep in mind that the weather in Chicago can turn on a dime. Currently they're calling for partly sunny skies at race start with a temperature of 44 degrees Fahrenheit. The wind will be out of the west south west at 16 mph. Looks like I'll need to layer and anticipate chucking some of my outer clothing along the course. Thankfully the chance of precipitation is zero. At any rate, I'm excited to get back to Chicago and to run another marathon. Racing is a little treat we get as runners for spending all those hours in training and prepping for our race goals.
Wednesday, October 9
7:46 PM Well, folks, the summer heat is a thing of the past and racing conditions for the marathon this Sunday are promising to be on the cool/cold side. That's fine with me. Rather be cold than hot. Then again, it's October. Let's just say you have to be prepared for all race conditions, so I'm trying to pack smart. Should I use my hydration vest on race day? I'll decide then. But it will come along to Chicago for sure. I'm kinda getting used to sipping on a sports drink every half mile or so rather than waiting to reach an aid station every 1-2 miles. Right now I'm trying to stay motivated for the race. Before every race you think about what kind of motivation works best for you. Shall I try for a new PR? Shall I allow myself to be pushed and challenged by a pacer? Shall I take my time and enjoy the sights of one of the greatest cities of the world? Don't know the answers yet, but the Lord will show me on race day. Don't know if I've mentioned this yet, but I'm running Chicago as a fundraiser for an organization called Lungevity, which helps people affected by lung cancer. If you'd like to make a donation, me web page is here. One thing is certain. I am far from being an expert about this running thing. I still have so much to learn. But with 15 marathons under my belt I've learned some basic things about running:
Folks, if something in your life is worth doing, do it now, because one day the opportunity may be taken away from you. If there's a goal you want to achieve, start working on it. But make sure your goals are your goals, not someone else's. They have to be based on your standards and values. Learning to set reasonable yet achievable goals has been one of the most profound things running has taught me. And there's still a lot more to learn!
1:18 PM Update on the ongoing situation with my right foot and the numbness I experience there occasionally. Today I had a nerve induction test where they poke you with needles and then run eclectic charges through your feet, calves, thighs, and lower back. The test took about an hour and wasn't pleasant but gathering as much information as you can about any injury is never a bad idea. Looks like I have some peripheral neuropathy in my right foot that might be caused by nerve damage in my lower spine. A lumbar MRI has been ordered, and I'm excited for the results to be delivered. Until then, the doctor suspects it's the result of normal aging and not directly due to all the activities I do. He wants me to stay active rather than sedentary. Hence a green light for Chicago. Maintaining fitness as a runner is a balancing act. But fatigue and soreness, even a few aches, is not the same as an injury. If you're active, you can never stop listening to the oh-so quiet voice of your body. Pain often means that injury is imminent, so if you're having pain it's best to see your doctor immediately. Sometimes the best remedy is to take some time off so that your muscles and joints have a chance to recover. Remember: the body you have is the only body you'll get. Most injuries are caused by overuse, which is why I've cut back significantly on the number of marathons I do annually. Nobody wants to have an injury, but they can and do occur. Expect them. Deal with them wisely. Seek professional help -- always. The patience and self-discipline you show during your recovery will be well worth it.
7:20 AM One of the points I try to make in my little devotional on running is that running (and all of life) should be to the glory of God. A well-cooked meal is not only a treat that delights the palate. It reflects creative talent, talent that only comes from God. Or take the arts. As you know, I've always dabbled in art. Drawing. Painting. Sketching. Oils. Water colors. I believe that all these pursuits can be seen as potential God-glorifying endeavors. The artist molds and shapes earthy elements into awe-inspiring paintings that reflect an ability "on loan from God." The architect fashions wood or stone into marvelous buildings that reflect a divinely-given gift of creativity. The athlete takes the human body and trains it to do amazing feats that remind us just how beautifully we humans are made by our Creator.
This month in Vienna, Eliud Kipchoge will try and break the 2-hour mark in the marathon. If he succeeds, it will be an awe-inspiring feat. To me at least, it will be another reminder of how wonderfully God created our human bodies.
Pursuing physical activity can also be an act of love for God and neighbor. The healthier I can stay as I grow older, hopefully the less of a burden I will be on my family. I would argue, then, that becoming physically active promotes the ends of God as we strive to be responsible with the bodies He has given us.
I'm not trying to romanticize sports. The fitness industry is obviously designed to make money, pure and simple. But any endeavor can be distorted by the ends of capitalism. Maybe it's best to think of fitness as a part of Christian discipleship. Created in the imago Dei, we are entrusted with the responsibility to care for all of creation, and how we treat the human body is often indicative of our relationship with God.
A marathon is so much like life. 26.2 miles is an odyssey of conflicting emotions. It's joy at how far you've come and despair at how far you have to go. Hard days come to all of us. But we keep on running the race of life. If we draw on the strength of God, we can all finish strong.
When I cross the finish line of life, I want to be spent. The real journey is the journey within.
6:15 AM The key verse during our conference in Philly was 2 Tim. 2:2: "And the things you've heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others." To me, this is one of the most encouraging things about Paul's life. It seems to me that Paul was willing to pass the baton to those he had trained. To the Corinthians he said, "You've seen my life. Now follow me as I follow Christ." One of the brothers reminded us that "There is a time for everything." And now is clearly the time for the trained to become the trainers. Mark 14 shows us the kind of relationship Jesus has with His disciples. He's like a wealthy businessman who's gone on a long vacation, leaving his estate and power of attorney with his staff. The Bible calls this "stewardship." Stewardship is the normal Christian life. It's not a life reserved only for clergy or missionaries. Christ is not looking for cheerleaders but for athletes who will get into the game and play. Live this way and you will not be disappointed I do believe!
Today is a day for recouping. Got an appointment with a sports physiologist at Duke this morning, then it's time to clean the house before putting the final touches on my preparation for Chicago. As a 67-year old with a little bit of time and experience behind me, I truly believe that we never outgrow our need to keep on moving forward in life. Thank you all for the opportunity to share some of my story with you and hopefully inspire you to remain in state of growth, always. I'm so grateful for the chance to run Chicago. Even if the course is cold and windy (as things seem to be shaping up in Chicago as of today), I'll keep my goals in front of me, working as hard as the Lord will allow me to.
Keep on growing in grace.
Tuesday, October 8
8:32 PM So great to visit Philly and get caught up with a team of men and women I've worked with internationally for over 10 years now. Pretty amazing how that journey began, and it's not over yet. We prayed together, huddling over meals while discussing the future work and just spending time together. We're all committed to a common core in some special way, and we have become close friends. I can't say "missions" without thinking of these folks and the measure of friendship and loyalty missions requires. I am committed to that friendship. There's a trust there, a reciprocity of values and relationships. My thanks to my good friend Rob for organizing our meetings and to Jake and Mary Ann for their warm hospitality in putting me up overnight. If you can't find God while hanging out with friends, you probably won't find Him in your quiet times. All of the blogging I do (and the occasional pontificating) doesn't matter one bit if I am not engaged in living out the Gospel Commandment in this world in conjunction with men and women like these. They are people in a real place facing real dangers, living out their faith just as I am living out mine. Yesterday and today I realized again that, oh, my God, You are so worthy of my praise. I was made for this life. I am but an exile and pilgrim in this fallen world, here to plant seeds and to prepare for that Day when all things will be renewed. All of us, wherever we live and whatever we do, are meant to be outposts of God's love in a broken world. I think that's because God is love.
The bride of Christ grows lovelier to me each and every day. I can't tell you how much I value my brothers and sisters (at least 100 were present for our meetings) -- men and women quietly doing the work of the kingdom in the oddest of places, not because we have to do this but because it's who we are. The joy of the Lord is our strength as each of us picks up our own little shovel and gets to work, living out the kingdom in our real, right-now lives. It isn't a chore. It's our vocation. It's the work God has given us to do.
Been a good week so far, been really good. Onward we go on this fantastic journey!
Monday, October 7
7:30 AM Up we go! Eager to fly to Philly later today for some meetings on global missions with some great friends. It's a time to humble ourselves before God and seek the direction and power of the Holy Spirit. The earliest Christians did not consider missions and evangelism an occasional activity. No, their witness was as consistent as their daily worship. A New Testament church is an evangelizing church. It reaches out in witness and good works. It is known not only for its biblical teaching but for its compassionate outreach. Only the Lord Jesus Christ through His Holy Spirit can open the blind eyes of the church to see this. As God's new community, we are called out of the world to belong to God and then sent right back into the world to witness and to serve. I used to make a distinction between the "Great Commandment" and the "Great Commission." No longer! The Great Commission of Matt. 28:19 is not the Great Suggestion. We should also call it a "commandment," for that's exactly what it is. So I see no contradiction between what I call the Love Commandment and the Gospel Commandment. The missionary church isn't concerned with itself but is a "church for others." Its center lies not in a weekly gathering but in daily obedience. Perhaps nothing is so damaging to the cause of Christ as a church that is preoccupied with itself. Paul's own example as an indefatigable missionary (Acts 20) has been an unfailing inspiration to me in this regard. He threw himself heart and soul into the work of the Gospel. He worked night and day on behalf of Christ. No suffering could stop him, not even the threat of death, for he did not consider his life to be of any value. Above all, he had no ulterior motives. Nobody could accuse him of being in it for the money. Paul's life should not only humble but inspire us. All of us are called to the task of global missions. We must be willing to suffer for what we believe in. God calls us both to a wider love (a love even of our enemies) and a nobler ambition (to prioritize God's rule and God's mission over our own). I will be the first to confess that I don't always live with these priorities. Thankfully, today and tomorrow I will be meeting with men and women who have consistently modeled for me what it looks like to fight the good fight of faith. I also believe in the power of God's word and God's Spirit to renew not only the church but also my own heart.
Always be on mission for Christ regardless of your location and vocation.
P.S. Some Christians I know are facing tremendous opposition and persecution where they live. I know because I've seen it firsthand on my many visits to Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. I hope that they, and we, will remember the final words of our Lord: "Remember, I am with you day after day after day, until the very end of the age." As Christ-followers, each of our days will have its trials and difficulties. But each day will also find the Lord Jesus Himself whispering in our ears, "My grace is all you need. I will never, never, NEVER leave you nor forsake you."
Sunday, October 6
4:42 PM The Word of the Day is "Hekastology." It's a word I invented several years ago. It comes from the Greek word hekastos, meaning "each" or "every." I was reminded of this neologism this morning as I listened to a wonderful message from 1 Pet. 4:10-11.
Here Peter writes, "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms." Yes, ladies and gentlemen, he's talking about our hekastology! The purpose of our Christian meetings is to encourage one another. We are a family, and good families spend time building relationships. We should go to every church meeting thinking not just "What good can I get out of this meeting" but also "How can I contribute something to the whole?" Let's get into the habit of praying each and every time before we attend a church meeting to ask God to show us some way to encourage others, and then let's be on the lookout for opportunities to do just that. Otherwise we might as well just stay at home and watch the service on TV!
5:34 AM There are always lessons to learn whenever you run a race. Here's a few that come to mind after yesterday's half:
1) Realize that even "flat" courses have some amount of vertical to them. Yesterday we faced 1,274 feet of elevation gain.
To give you some perspective, the famous Heartbreak Hill at the Boston Marathon is 91 feet of vertical. You get the idea.
2) Take care of your toes. As in having a professional pedicure. By the end of the race, toe #2 on my left foot was hurting something bad.
Should have known better. I definitely need to have that taken care of before Chicago.
3) Learn to suffer better. Pain comes with the territory. By mile 10 of a half marathon you're gonna be hurting. Accept your discomfort rather than dwelling on it.
4) Always do your best in life, no matter what you're doing. When yesterday's race was over I asked myself, "Did you do your best today, Dave?" Some days doing our best may mean running as hard and as fast as we can. On other days, it may mean slowing down and simply savoring the course and the experience. Races are a good place to find the best in yourself, in others, and in running.
5) Be respectful of others. The trail yesterday was a multi-purpose one, meaning there were plenty of people biking while we were running. If you're ever biking where people are running, you are told to say "On your left" before passing. One guy was super polite and said "Rider on your left." That one additional word made the request to pass all that more congenial. I'm going to start using it when I ride.
6) Savor your victories. I've never won a race. In fact, I don't recall ever seeing the winner cross the finish line, I'm so far behind. But here's the deal in running and in all of life. Even if you never win a race you can still be victorious. Yesterday I enjoyed a personal victory. I finished. I set a new course PR. I enjoyed the company of hundreds of other runners who were all working together toward the same goal. The time on a clock is not a reflection of the kind of person I am. The victories over ourselves are the ones that matter the most.
Saturday, October 5
3:44 PM Today I wrapped up my preparations for Chicago with my final long run of the training block.
Today's 13.1-mile race in Farmville required a steady pace, and it was nice to beat my finish time from last year's event by 15 minutes.
With Chicago next weekend it feels great to have my final long run in the books. Time to focus on recovery and tapering before I leave for Chicago next Friday. So excited for this moment in time and for the God-given health that allows me to enjoy the great outdoors.
Friday, October 4
5:38 PM What do runners do? We work hard, train hard, rest, and then RACE! Instead of doing the Raleigh 13.1 Half Marathon as I had planned, I decided yesterday to switch over to the High Bridge Half Marathon in Farmville, where I do a lot of my training.
Not only is Farmville closer, I prefer crushed gravel to concrete as a running surface. As I continue to dabble in racing I'm trying to be wise as well as determined. Running takes place between the ears as much as it does with your legs.
I ran this race last year and was very pleased with the course and the organization. It's just another small step on my way to fulfilling some dreams of mine. No matter how large or small your dreams may be, never stop chasing them down.
12:45 PM What kind of music do you enjoy listening to while working out? I love various genres but classical has to be my favorite. Here's a new addition to my play list. It will take your breath away.
12:12 PM Excellent workout at the Y this morning in the lead-up to Chicago. Excited to take the rest of the day off before tomorrow's half marathon. I can feel it, folks. Maybe a new PR at Chicago? We will see! Today I test drove the new 2020 Honda Odyssey after my workout. I'll need to trade in my 2017 Odyssey soon. It's already got 68,000 miles on it. Yes, I do drive a lot. Not happy with the 2020 model, though. The redesigned front panel leaves much to be desired in my opinion. Might have to go back to driving Fords.
Meanwhile, been praying that the drought would be over soon. We haven't had a good rain in weeks and the fields are very dry. James tells us that Elijah prayed and "down came the rain." A prayer on your part for rain in these here parts would not be unappreciated, my friends.
5:55 AM In Galatians this AM. Here the key word is "flabbergasted." That's what Paul is. He writes, in essence, "You Galatians -- I can't believe how fickle you are! How quickly you've turned away from the One who called you by the grace of Christ and have embraced "another" Gospel -- a variant message, an alien message, a non-message, a lie! You're crazy! Have you lost your mind? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. How do you suppose you can be acceptable to God by adding to Christ this hyphen or that hyphen: Jesus-circumcision, Jesus-law, Jesus-religion? When you attempt to add anything to His sole sufficiency you rob God of His glory. I tell you: If you accept circumcision, you will trade all the advantages of life in Christ for mere morality!" Paul has had it with "religion." There's nothing we can add to the work of Christ on the cross. But more often than not we decide we can "improve" the matter by supplementing faith with our paltry legalisms. We only end up diluting the purity of the Gospel and the simplicity of Christ. Galatians was written for every hyphenated Christian who ever lived: Jesus-and-angels or Jesus-and-circumcision or Jesus-and-politics or Jesus-and-Allah. The Gospel deletes all hyphens. God's actions in Jesus are enough.
Few things make us more vulnerable to the enemy's schemes than legalism.
Thursday, October 3
2:14 PM Crushed a 20 mile workout today.
Patience and fortitude are the key words in my training these days.
Today was a little step in the right direction of obtaining a state of readiness for Chicago. Patience is an art form ladies and gentlemen.
7:48 AM Ended my reading in Ephesians 4 this AM. Paul writes that shepherd-teachers are to prepare God's people for works of service. Let's get out of our heads that only some Christians are called to ministry. We follow One who said, "I did not come to be served but to serve." We can follow Him without serving? Nope. The church flourishes only when people are free to exercise their gifts.
6:48 AM If I live to be 100, I will never forget this video.
The Word of the Day is "forgiveness." Christians never have nothing to repent of. Luther's first thesis in his 95 theses was, "When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, 'Repent' (Mt. 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance." We may minimize our wrongs, but God won't. Sin is serious business with Him. Knowing that, this video brought me to my knees. How could it not? My friend, dwell on His forgiveness today. And if you have done wrong, ask Him to forgive you and cleanse you. Forgiveness is like a snowplow, again opening the road before us. Thanks be to God.
Wednesday, October 2
7:46 PM Next half marathon chosen! It will be this Saturday in Raleigh. CANNOT WAIT! Should be the perfect long run before Chicago.
We are moving onward and upward!
1:26 PM The Word of the Day is "moderation." The Greeks had a saying: "Nothing in excess." In ancient Greece, moderation was considered necessary to ensure normality by minimizing extremes. For runners, lack of moderation is a constant temptation. We tend to overdo things, even after a hard race. This is called OTS, or Over Training Syndrome. I am trying to be very intentional these days about not overdoing things. Thus my 7-mile run today was at a very slow pace. It almost felt like walking.
Prov. 16:32 says "Moderation is better than muscle." Balance is the key to so much of life:
Being a runner will test your moderation that's for sure. I've learned many lessons over the past 4 years of running. I do hope one of them is to do all things in moderation. "Nothing in excess" -- except, perhaps, loving God and serving others!
Strive for balance in all things.
8:38 AM This and that ....
1) Reading the book of Micah in my AM devotions.
Verse 1 may be a word for somebody today. We sometimes have our favorite books of the Bible and tend to overlook (or ignore) others. I'm a New Testament guy, that's for sure. Still, I've always been a bit uncomfortable with language like, "Romans is Paul's greatest writing." The fact is, you can go anywhere in the 66 books of the Bible and pick absolutely any verse and say, "Thus says the Lord." It's God's word, all of it. "This is the word of the Lord which came to Micah ...." Equal inspiration. Equal authority. Equal usefulness ("All Scripture is God-breathed and useful ....").
2) I thought Fall had arrived. But the temp today will be about 180 degrees. Might have to run indoors on the dreadmill today. 90 percent of my runs are at slow pace and I'm shocked to see how that translates into racing. Chicago will be the next test of that philosophy.
3) I hate fast food but just had to try out the new Impossible Burger at Burger King. Tasted like rubber to me. Serves me right.
4) Back to running for a minute. If you're just getting started, the fall and winter is a good time. There are plenty of low-key races around Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Have fun!
5) Took this pic exactly 3 years ago today. Can't wait to get back to Colorado and bag another 14er.
Monday, September 30
11:06 AM Hmm. Disconnect much?
Phaedrus is reported to have said, "Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many." We all have perceptions of reality. Unfortunately, at times we are wrong. As you know, I love to think outside of the box. Through the years I've discovered a passion for the primary sources, whether they are in Greek, Latin, German, or whatever. I'm a huge fan of putting your head down and tuning out the cacophony of noises from others and digging into the text for yourself. Luck, nope, not in Bible study. I frankly do not have all the answers to the questions of life. At the end of the day, each of us has to evaluate the evidence and come up with our own convictions. Let's all work harder at doing our own thinking and not falling into the trap of group think. Of course, the opposite is also true. Let's not disagree with the majority unless we feel there is some pretty strong evidence for doing so. Let's just say there has to be a balance between skepticism and reasonable affirmation.
Onward, upward, and Godward!
7:15 AM "Efficiency." Yes, that's the Word of the Day. I think I'm pretty good at staying on top of things, but sometimes things can get left behind in the day to day of life if you know what I mean. Oil change. Post office. Bank. House cleaning. Grocery shopping. Animal care. Life can get busy when you have a fulltime job plus two houses and a farm to care for. I often wonder how I can do better. I want to become more efficient in the use of my time and energy so that I can maintain that oh-so delicate balance between being and doing.
When I get to the office today first up will be to print off and copy my quizzes, exams, and handouts for the week. Then I plan to get some writing done and maybe even work on a book review I've been intending to finish. Maybe I'll get in a final September workout today, but right now that's iffy. As you can see, I met and surpassed my monthly goal of 100 miles so I think I can skip a day or two of training.
Only 2 weeks of training left before the marathon in the Windy City. Yes, I'm a bit nervous, but I think I'm still on track to arrive in Chicago both fresh and fit. You just keep breathing and moving forward one day at a time in this world.
Be as efficient as you can.
Sunday, September 29
6:44 PM Next week will be our fall break and I've got two trips planned, one to Philadelphia to meet up with some good friends and another to Chicago for my marathon. In making my plane reservations I always ask for the window seat. I never tire of seeing the earth from 29,000 feet, though I also notice how many of my fellow travelers keep their window shades closed even during takeoff and landing. The day I lose my childlike curiosity about planet Earth and stop staring out the window with awe and wonder is the day I know that my childlike innocence is gone forever. Life to me has been an inspiring, challenging, rewarding, heartbreaking adventure. Even today, I will crawl into bed tonight full of gratitude for such an amazing day. Any runner knows that just being able to ambulate the day after a race is as much cause for celebration as is running the race itself. I'm so glad that our bodies can adapt. So can our psyches. God knew what He was doing when He designed us. So let's not miss all the good things He has in store for us in this all-too brief life. Challenge yourself to live big. Grab that window seat. And leave the shade open.
4:58 PM What a journey running has been. Can you believe Chicago is in only 2 weeks? Many lessons have been learned over the past 4 years. Not easy but very rewarding. I do hope I've learned the lesson of taking time off from running after a race. Today after church I got in an easy 2 and a half mile walk in Appomattox.
I started out on the Sweeney Trail and ended up backtracking into the village itself. Below are a more few pix for your reading enjoyment. Can you identify the surrender house?
8:12 AM The Word of the Day is "recovery." What are the best strategies for recovering after a hard race? For me, sleep is the best recovery tool, and I was indeed blessed by a good night's sleep last night. Then there's nutrition. Eat healthy and frequently. Again, everyone is different, but for me chocolate milk does the trick. Nothing helps me recover better than CM. Stretching and rolling come next. Finally, I like to take lots of walks, nothing too strenuous, just something to keep me active.
So here are only a few items in my recovery recipe. What are yours? Once again, it's all about walking that thin line between competition and rest.
7:40 AM Congratulations to Ethiopian runner Kenenisa Bekele who missed the world record by only 2 seconds at today's Berlin Marathon. What a magnificent performance. The satisfaction of knowing that you pushed yourself way farther than you ever thought possible is as valuable as any cheer from the spectators. These are the moments when Heaven touches the earth.
6:58 AM It is time for you to "fall" into a new hobby or habit? Like learning to read New Testament Greek? Fall is a great time to begin. The kids are back in school and your routine has finally returned to semi-"normal." The days are getting cooler and shorter. And what better season than the fall to reassess your goals? Change is, after all, literally in the air. If your goal is to learn to read Greek, here are some suggestions for getting started:
1. Pick your beginning grammar. There are a ton of them out there. If you're savings-conscious, try to get one with the exercises built-in so that you don't have to buy an additional workbook.
2. Select your teacher. Just Google it on YouTube. They're available!
3. Set realistic goals. You can't learn the subject in a few weeks or even months. I'd suggest one lesson per week.
4. Know your obstacles. If you tend to jump off the bandwagon as quickly as you jump on it, ask someone to hold you accountable. Better yet, study with them.
For resources on all of these steps, check out my Greek Portal. There you'll find the latest Greek textbooks, YouTube channels, and all the bells and whistles you could wish for to get you started.
Get the most out of the fall season and accomplish that goal you've been postponing. You can do it!
Onward and upward!
Saturday, September 28
1:06 PM The Virginia 10 Miler went down today with an amazing showing of thousands of runners in the beautiful city of Lynchburg, VA.
This race is not for the weak of heart.
The last mile is the hardest as it's all uphill. It takes true grit to get up and over this course. I find it helps to keep smiling.
The Kenyans, of course, breezed by me going the other way before I had even gone 3 miles. Man were they smoking.
After I had crossed the finish line I looked at my watch to see what my time was. I had secretly been hoping for a new personal course record. I wasn't disappointed.
A new PR. Yes!
Thanks to the Lord's kindness, this will be a race I will remember for a very long time to come. I felt that it merited lunch at the Mexican restaurant.
Now it's off to take a long nap and then take the dog for walk. Thanks for coming with me on this journey. As I always say, onward and upward!
4:30 AM Yes, I'm off to another Virginia 10-Miler in Lynchburg, my third time running this race. I have my eye set on reaching a few personal goals, but you never know what you'll encounter out there on the course. One thing is for sure: it's going to be hot and humid. Let me know if you're running today and we'll meet up at the starting line. The fall running season is in full swing. Let's see what the Lord has in store for us!
Friday, September 27
4:16 PM Today I'm honing in on the various beginning Greek grammars I have in my personal library to see what others are saying about the aorist tense.
Time to keep fighting for a better understanding of the Greek verb system. As long as you're teaching, you never outgrow your need to keep abreast of current scholarship. My goal in teaching is to always arrive at the classroom as fresh as possible. In the background is the beautiful bouquet of flowers I was given at Liberty U. a week ago. How kind of them.
8:05 AM Have you noticed? With the football season upon us, the spirit of competition is at its peak. I truly believe that the spirit of competition is hardwired into the human psyche. That's why we are so attracted to sports of all kinds. That's also why we love to cheer for the underdog. In fact, the Word of the Day is "infracaninophile" -- a word I use in my bio to describe who I am. It means "lover of the underdog." Growing up in Hawai'i, it seems I was almost always the underdog. A couple of months ago I visited my old schools in Kailua. From marbles to basketball to volleyball, the playground images are painfully clear. I was rarely chosen to be on the "A" team if you know what I mean. What I learned was that the athletic challenges I faced as a young person are being refought every of my life as an adult. There is something inside me that seeks to prove to myself and others that I can "play the game." This spirit of competition is so healthy for the human race. It causes us to strive to be and do our best with whatever talents and gifts the Lord has graciously given us. You never reach the edges of your dreams.
This morning I read through the book of 1 Corinthians. In chapter 15, Paul is very honest with us. He knew that Jesus had revealed Himself to all the other apostles before He had revealed Himself to Paul. "It was fitting that I bring up the rear," he writes, adding:
Still, Paul was grateful to be able to serve the Lord. Earlier in the letter he insists that no part of the body is unimportant.
Of course not. We all need each other -- the slow need the fast, the up front need the hidden, the higher need the lower.
What we have to do, my friends, is make sure we are doing the very best we can as an ear, or an eye, or as whatever part of the body God has made us. As Paul says, "But because God was so gracious, so very gracious, here I am. And I'm not about to let his grace go to waste." When the gun goes off in tomorrow's race, as the gazelles speed away from us back-of-the-packers in search of a new PR, we penguins will waddle along proving to ourselves that our past will not determine our future. I realize that every time I challenge myself to do more, to climb to ever greater heights, I am a winner.
Underdog or first-place winner, we all can still be victorious.
Thursday, September 26
8:08 PM My oh my, blog family, been spending the evening at the lake -- enjoying a hot fudge sundae, watching the sun go down, and thinking about aging.
Yes, I said aging. My brief foray into running has taught me many valuable lessons. One of these lessons is that the body at 67 is not the same body it was at 47, even though my mind may think so. Your body is not young forever. Which means that physical activity, while it may delay the aging process, can't reverse it. With age, everything is harder both physically and mentally. This means that both the intensity and volume of training needs to be reduced the older we get. A good starting point, I've discovered, is introducing non-weight-bearing activities into my exercise regiment. As a result, I'm now involved in 5 sports -- running, cycling, surfing, swimming, and weight training. I have accepted the fact that continued heavy training is detrimental to my overall health. It's as though my muscles have developed a reduced capacity not only to absorb shock during running but also to recover after training.
All that to say that while I may be slowing down a bit as a age, I don't plan to give up any time soon. I just want to be sure that my exercise regime include repair cycles that will last a lifetime rather for limited period of time.
What's on store for tomorrow? Lord willing, I'll spend the morning in the weight room and then spend the remainder of the day resting up for Saturday's race. Before you know it, it'll be time to rock n roll!
11:38 AM Feeling good about today's effort at the Tobacco Heritage Trail in South Boston. I'm ever grateful for trails like this one so close to my farm.
Today's run was an easy 5 miles on a very soft surface (crushed gravel) instead of on either concrete or -- the surface I will run on this Saturday in Lynchburg -- asphalt. I might call today's training a shakeout run to make sure my legs are fresh and happy before the Virginia 10-Miler.
It was definitely a confidence booster for the marathon in 3 weeks. Even though I will never have a runner's body, I can still strive to have a runner's soul. Time now for a nap and then I hope to get some solid writing done.
8:24 AM Chicago will be my 16th marathon. Where shall I run after that? That is the question of the day. There are so many marathons out there that it's not easy to decide. Is the Atlanta Marathon the ticket? It might very well be. The date is perfect (March 1). Plus I have kids who live within a 2-hour drive of greater Atlanta. The downside are the hills. As in HILLS. So I may end up in Cincy after all. But at least Atlanta is now in the running.
Off to get in a run.
8:05 AM New Power Point now up at our Greek Portal: Biblical Eldership.
Here I inquire as to whether the concept of "first among equals" (primus inter pares) is biblical, drawing heavily from Strauch's classic work.
7:15 AM Today's key word is "responsibility." One way that running has influenced my life is that it has taught me that I have a body to look after. Even the mere attempt to get into shape shows that you care for your temple. Running has taught me what I can do with the body God gave me -- and, just as importantly, what I can't do with it. I do not have a runner's body. I'm just not built to run fast. I'm way too tall and my body type is wrong for this sport. But these very limitations have heightened the rewards of running. As with studying Greek, the more effort that goes into something, and the more difficulties there are to overcome, the more rewarding the results. Running competitively has taught me the humility to realize my limitations. I've come to realize that I can still devote the same effort to attaining my goals as elite runners do to attaining theirs. Perhaps most importantly, I can derive as much pleasure from running as they do.
Anyone of us can be more active. Anyone of us can find a way to treat our bodies more responsibly. The first step (pun intended) is to get out there and run or walk. Nothing stops us except our own indolence. Even if you've never run before, even if you're overweight, even if you're clumsy and unathletic like I am, even if you have never been involved in sports, you can become a runner. You don't have to run marathons to be a runner. You don't have to have a perfect body to be a runner. You only have to want to run.
The secret to getting started is that there is no secret. All you have to do is lace up and go. Somewhere between the soles of your shoes and the road beneath your feet lies the answer.
Wednesday, September 25
8:28 PM Wow. That supper hit the spot. The book I was talking about earlier is Suffering as Participation with Christ in the Pauline Corpus. Wesley Davey is the author.
Wesley teaches religious studies at Forman Christian College in Pakistan. The book originated in his doctoral studies at Southeastern under my supervision. I think it makes a noteworthy contribution to our understanding of how the early church viewed suffering. I could not be more proud of the author.
7:38 PM Today I got home just in time to see the sun setting in my backyard -- a sight I never had until I cut some timber a few months ago.
I'm doing well in my taper before Saturday's 10-miler in Lynchburg. Hence yesterday's 5-mile workout at Joyner Park in Wake Forest at an 11:56 pace.
A solid effort 4 days out from the race but I don't believe it was too hard. As a runner you're always walking that fine line between doing too much or too little. Can be a bit unnerving at times.
Tomorrow it's either a run or a bike -- haven't decided yet. Then for Friday I've planned an easy workout at the Y before the big day.
Gotta keep this short so I can get some grub but I can't sign off until I give a big "Thank you" to my colleague John Hammett for his exceptional lecture today in our NT class on the subject of the significance of Romans in church history.
He knocked it out of the park as always. So grateful for all my friends and colleagues here at school. Stay tuned for more coverage of my Chicago training. I also ran across a recently published book I want to call your attention to.
In the meantime, onward and upward!
Monday, September 23
6:10 AM Only 21 days until Chicago. One thing is for certain. Chicago draws some of the best runners from around the world. It will be an honor to race with them even if I'm at the back of the pack. The legs are not the freshest after 3 weeks of hard training, but I'm looking forward to another week of preparation. I have to continue to lay the aerobic foundation for a solid race effort. Slow and steady are my watchwords this week.
Today's key word is "modesty." The teachers I had in college and seminary were, thankfully, never superior or rude. Rather, they were modest, thoughtful, and anxious for me to acquire new knowledge. Above all, they hated flattery. These are attributes I've found in virtually all of the top teachers I've known throughout my life. Indeed, I suspect that these characteristics are essential in the field, in which success is so dreadfully visible and in which the duration of that success is so ephemeral. The New Testament scholars of my generation that we so highly respected are all now long gone and (to a sad degree) forgotten. But who can ever forget the modesty and self-effacement of an F. F. Bruce or a Howard Marshall? I for one never will. Incidentally, I have never met a successful runner who made me feel inferior. I think even elite runners know that their days of fame and stardom are numbered and it's this very temporary nature of success that keeps them from becoming arrogant. No passage in Scripture explains this we well as the verses below. If you are up to the challenge, read them over and over again. As you read remember that our weaknesses are not liabilities with God. There is no handicap that hinders our Lord.
And remember to walk humbly.
Sunday, September 22
6:06 PM The message this morning was from one of my favorite passages in Acts.
Paul's teaching in Acts 20:17-35 is a reminder that the leadership of a local church should be both pastoral and plural. "Pastor," of course, is a metaphor. Elders are to do the work of a shepherd and tend to a flock, as it were, especially by feeding and protecting it. I'm so grateful for all the elders I know. They are good shepherds keeping watch over their flock day and night. Paul's example is an unfailing inspiration to them. Implicit in this chapter, however, is the truth that God is the supreme overseer of His own people. The church is His, not ours. And over this church is no man but the Holy Spirit who appoints the overseers. Elders have no proprietary rights over the church. This truth should both humble and inspire those who are in church leadership.
Time to prep my meals for the week. Congratulations to everyone for your heroic efforts out there in class, whether you're studying Greek with me or New Testament. Onward and ever upward!
8:04 AM Training this week:
Today after church: Gym
Thursday: Gym and run
Friday: Rest day
Saturday: Virginia 10-Miler in Lynchburg!
7:40 AM The Word of the Day is "failure." Like many, I discovered trail running by accident. I was looking for a winter race and Liberty University was hosting a trail race called the Arctic 5K in February. Perfect, I thought. That run was absolutely decisive. Trail running brings you into direct contact with nature and her always awesome and sometimes dangerous beauty. When you're out on a trail run, you know it's good to be alive because you are so close to nature's embrace. There's something surreal that happens when your arms and legs are pumping, your lungs are heaving, and the earth is moving swiftly beneath your feet. I even love the privacy and solitude of being on the trails. Even in a crowded race like the one I ran in yesterday, you reach a point where fatigue and concentration drive you back into yourself, into that part of you that only times of duress and discomfort bring a clear focus on the person you really are. I suggest that to achieve real success in any area of life there must always be a level of pain and discomfort as well as a sense of insecurity. Knowing that you can fail keeps you from becoming arrogant, while our inevitable failures become the catalyst for real personal growth. I failed at Greek when I first took it. Thankfully, God got me back on my feet and we plowed on. Even today, when I suppose I've reached some level of expertise in the field, teaching Greek has given me a heightened sense of self-criticism and self-expectation. I realize it's never possible to do your absolute best in any endeavor. Likewise, running in competitions like yesterday's Nasty Nine teaches you to identify your limitations and to accept them with pride, without envying those who might have athletic abilities that far surpass yours. After every race there will always be another challenge to be tackled. I still have a lifetime of goals and ambitions to achieve, and so do you, my friend.
Blog family, God understands when we are hesitating to move forward because of past failures or old wounds. He picks up the pieces of our lives and gets us back up on our feet. "You go before me and follow me. You place Your hand of blessing on my head" (Psalm 139:5). Why? Because He loves us and wants us to experience the plans He has for us from the beginning of time (Rom. 9:23).
What is next for me? Only God knows. But I do know this: I can never be satisfied with the level of spirituality and commitment I've attained. God has a magnificent plan for my life. And He's willing to both guide, correct, and protect me toward that end.
P.S. A few more pix:
1) Meet and greet at LU on Friday.
2) What drives me as a Greek teacher: The New Testament is God-breathed.
3) I snapped this not 5 minutes ago.
"God made a home in the sky for the sun. It comes out in the morning like an athlete eager to run a race" (Psalm 19).
Saturday, September 21
6:44 PM Today's key word is "audible." Every now and again we have to call an audible in life. That was the case today as I ran the Nasty Nine Trail Run at Brushy Hills.
The day started off like any other day of uphill goodness.
After about a mile of running I got into a relaxed groove behind a guy named Dave, who was going along at a pretty good clip.
I was looking forward to a competitive foot race when we came across a young lady who had just fallen. She had either sprained or broken her right ankle and was in incredible pain. Dave and I tried to carry her down the mountain but it was just too much for us. Eventually the paramedics were able to produce a stretcher and off she went to the hospital. (Charissa, I hope and pray you are doing much better!) Dave and I continued our pursuit of the finish line and crossed together. When we began our race today, neither of us had expected to encounter an injured runner. But that's the nature of a trail run -- roots, rocks, branches, streams, and any number of hazardous obstacles. Little wonder they called this race "nasty." But we did what anybody would have done in that situation. We called an "audible" and took care of the business at hand. Internet family, life is full of audibles. You may agonize (as I often do) over our uncertainties and insecurities. But God is always there to support those who trust in His certainty and security. He promises His children "a future and a hope" (Jer. 29:11). The hardest part is usually just letting go and trusting God for such things as losing your job, coping with the death of a loved one, and dealing with the pressures of a stressed-out world.
After the race, everyone was hungry, but the race directors were prepared to assuage our ferocious appetites with sandwiches, chocolate milk, bananas, lemonade, and cookies.
A group I just had to congratulate was the contingent from VMI in nearby Lexington. Like me, this was their first Nasty Nine, and they crushed it.
Meanwhile, I can't believe my day yesterday. So great to see my former student Ben Laird and to be a guest in his Greek classes again.
We met on the ninth floor of the Divinity School's new tower building with crazy good views of the Peaks of Otter.
Last night's meeting was in the lecture hall in the Science Building. I hope the students weren't too bored!
I can't thank Jill Ross (Biblical Studies) and Jaeshill Kim (Linguistics) enough for doing such a great job of organizing my talk. It was a long day but a good one. I could not be more impressed with the students at LU.
Not much else to say on this fine fall day.
And call an audible when you need to.
Friday, September 20
8:10 AM As promised, here's today's schedule at Liberty:
12:00-12:50: Ben Laird's Greek 1 class (Tower ninth floor)
2:10-3:00: Ben Laird's Greek 3 class (Tower ninth floor)
3:15-4:05: Jill Ross's Greek 1 class (Tower ninth floor)
6:30-8:00: Lecture (Science Hall)
The latter is sponsored by the university's linguistics club and is, I believe, open to the public. My topic is "Why Bible Students Ought to Be the Best Linguists Out There." After the lecture I'll head to Lexington, VA, which is about an hour drive from Lynchburg. I hope to do a mountain trail race there tomorrow. Here's the elevation map. Oh my goodness.
Which leads me to our Word of the Day: "Leisure." In our busy world, finding ways to relax can be challenging. Personally, I love both work and leisure and choose to maximize the two. Both sleep and leisure are recovery techniques that we Type A personalities have a hard time balancing with our busy work schedules. Leisure isn't idleness. It's not laziness. Laziness doesn't benefit anybody. Leisure is being present in the moment and leaving ourselves open to God's goodness all around us. Leisure, like work, can and should bring glory to God. Leisure is simply the right balance between work and play, between give and take, freeing us to be fully alive. The Psalmist wrote, "Open wide your mouth and I will fill it." Tomorrow, when I'm up in the mountains, I hope to relax and "take it all in."
This is a new topic on this blog but I hope you've enjoyed it. Looking forward to what God has in store for me this weekend. Hope you have a great one too.
Start each day with a grateful heart.
Thursday, September 19
12:52 PM Feels good to have a 5K tempo run under my belt as I prepare for Chicago.
Running by feel, I averaged 8 miles per hour on the faster sections of the track. A solid effort on an absolutely beautiful day.
Earlier I managed to get in an upper body workout at the Y.
I don't necessarily want to have large arms. But runners need good upper body strength especially toward the end of a race, when your legs are shot and you're relying on arm swing to get you to the finish line. Still earlier, I spent an hour or so at our local Amish bakery sipping coffee and putting the final touches on my lectures tomorrow at Liberty University.
I'll be speaking a total of 4 times so there's a lot of preparation work involved. I'll post my speaking schedule tomorrow before I leave. Stay tuned for more updates both about my training and my lecturing at LU.
Alright, signing off, time for a long nap.
6:55 AM Today's key word is "worship." A sub-theme might be "Bible translations." This morning I was reading 1 Cor. 14 in The Message and ran across these words:
I think The Message often gets it right. Here, however, it gets it wrong, in my humble opinion. Paul never refers to the purpose of a church gathering as worship, though we often do. Although what we do when we gather can indeed be described as worship because we should be worshiping at all times, the New Testament teaches that Christians are to meet primarily for the purpose of mutual encouragement. That's exactly what Paul says here: "When you come together ... do all things for edification" (1 Cor. 14:26). It's not so much a worship service as an edification service. Another key passage is Heb. 10:24-25.
The "Day" the author is talking about here is the return of Christ, when we will see Jesus face to face and all earthly sorrow will come to an end. Until then, says the author, life is full of trials. That's why we need to "spur one another on" and "encourage one another." As with running a marathon, there's a grave danger that I will give up in the Christian life before I reach the finish line. That's why we need each other. You need me and I need you. And our meetings should serve that end.
Edification is so central to the New Testament understanding of why we meet as Christians that it provides the test as to whether or not we should do something during the meeting. This is the argument Paul is making in 1 Cor. 14: "Does it edify? Does it build people up as believers?" If, for example, you have a tongue and there is no interpreter present, no one else receives any benefit. Hence Paul insists that uninterpreted tongues should have no place in church gatherings.
Churches today desperately need more pastors who will obey Paul's injunction to "do all things for edification." Pastor-teachers play a crucial role in God's work of building up churches, but not at the expense of the contributions of others. All God's people have the responsibility of ministry. This is how the Bible expects churches to be built up. And none of us can say we have nothing to contribute.
So, the question of the day is: How will I worship God today? We should pray that God would use us to bless others. We should think of ourselves not as laypeople but as priests who worship and serve God 24/7. And, when you go to church, remember that you are going not just to meet with God. You are also going to meet with (and serve) other Christians. We are a family, after all. And the more we spur one another on to love and good works, the better we will worship God.
Hope that makes sense!
P.S. Couldn't resist:
Maybe it will "spur you on" to get outside and take a short walk today!
Wednesday, September 18
6:24 PM The spirit of competition is so healthy for us humans. I really, really love races because of the comradery and the opportunity to go head to head with some great runners. But I also love to run solo. So far this week I managed 3 runs. I did Monday's 10-mile run on the hard concrete of the Neuse River Greenway.
Although I ended up with a minor blister on my left foot, I felt great afterwards.
Yesterday and today I ran 4 miles each day at Joyner Park in Wake Forest, where the surface is a lot more runner-friendly (asphalt). This was my view this morning during my run.
I am beyond excited for the continued challenge of marathon running in the United States and (if the Lord allows) beyond. I think I'm just getting started in this sport, and I know the competition from my fellow racers will push me to new heights. At the end of the day it all comes down to the joy of running. I think the same applies to anything in life. Students who enjoy Greek tend to master it quickly and permanently. When I fell in love with Greek back in the 1970s, it was like finding myself for the first time. Likewise with running. When you're running, loneliness does not creep in. That's because you're having fun and doing what God created your body to do -- move.
By the way, "move" is the Word of the Day. My friend, you are capable of so much more than you think. Challenge yourself to live big. Turn off the TV. Get outdoors. Think about what you want to accomplish. Now go and DO IT!
Monday, September 16
5:45 AM Only 12 days to go until the Virginia 10-Miler in Lynchburg. This is one tough race, especially the final hill. It's remarkable to see runners who are clearly struggling (like me) but continue to push forward. What a parable of the Christian life. In a perfect world, we would live obediently, practice spiritual disciplines, claim our identity in Christ, and be problem-free. (There would also be a Butterfinger under my pillow every morning.) The truth is that life has a way of throwing us into such confusion and pain that we lose all sense of hope. Don't be ashamed of where you are in this process. Learn whatever lessons the Master Teacher is putting before you. One of the things I love about marathons is the adventure of never knowing how things are going to turn out. Good results aren't guaranteed. Your race can go badly or well, but know what? You'll never know until you muster the gumption to try. Any marathoner knows that making it to the end of the race in one piece is as much a cause for celebration as is going the distance. What I am saying is that the human body is amazing. It can do some really astonishing things. God knew what He was doing when He created us. He also knew how awesome the sense of accomplishment from running is.
Recently I heard of somebody who just lost their spouse after many years of marriage. I saw to it that they got a copy of my book Running My Race: Reflections on Life, Loss, Aging, and 40 Years of Teaching. When we struggle, we need someone to trust. Without someone we can trust in, we will inevitably either pretend things are better or else try and relieve the pain through craziness. I wrote my book in response to the cry of my own heart to know God better in the midst of my loss. As with marathon racing, recovering from loss is hard, a road less traveled, but the journey is definitely worth it.
As I continue to share with you my journey on this blog, I hope that a passion to know God in the midst of your problems will be stirred within you. The world is too uncertain a place to put our trust in man. But it's a perfect place to find God.
5:22 AM To my beginning Greek students: If you get tired of (or bored with!) my teaching, remember you can go here for videos of other teachers using our grammar.
5:15 AM Today's key word is "nudge." David Halpern once wrote a book called Inside the Nudge Unit: How Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference. I like that title. If you're like me, the Holy Spirit doesn't always impel you forward in your Christian walk in one giant leap. Sometimes He'll pester and nudge you just to take another step. A nudge is a push but a gentle one. The transformation occurs from the inside out. A nudge is a seed of faith planted in the heart. Sure, there are risks. But faith is willing to go where it's being led -- er, nudged -- because faith follows the One who leads: Jesus Christ.
How do you measure spiritual growth? It think it's largely by asking ourselves if we are practicing what we're learning. The favorite times in my life have been those when I got involved in helping and serving others. But I'm ashamed to say that there were periods when my growth slowed to a halt. My soul atrophied. My spiritual muscles got flabby. The Spirit may have been nudging me, but I wasn't paying much attention. The Bible contains testaments of people who at times trusted and obeyed God completely and at others times completely disregarded Him. But being a "doer of the word" is not just an idle suggestion. "Don't just listen to God's word," writes James (1:22). "Do what it says." Balanced spiritual growth only happens when we're giving into those little Holy-Spirit nudges.
So how is He nudging you today? Remember: The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth. Hence the Bible is God's primary way of making Himself known to us. It guides us out of darkness and it helps us to maneuver through those awfully tight places we often encounter in life. God cares about these matters and more. And His word tells exactly what He's like and what He expects from us. Our duty, then, is to avoid becoming dull and insensitive to what the Spirit is saying to us. One of the highest and noblest functions of our minds is to listen to God's word and thus to read His mind and think His thoughts after Him.
How I thank God this morning for His word and for His Spirit, who is constantly nudging me from where I am to where I ought to be. And what a joy it is to teach that word this week on campus.
Sunday, September 15
6:30 PM The time at Clearview was well spent I do believe. It concluded today with a fun panel discussion.
Here's wishing Peter and John well as they wing their way back to Phoenix tonight. Lots was discussed today. I'm afraid I may have raised a few eyebrows when I said I don't separate my devotional reading of the Bible from my academic reading of same. I just don't see a sacred/secular divide at all. That includes what we normally refer to as "worship." As I said, we don't come to church to worship. We come to church as worshippers. Which reminded me of this little book. (It's small but it sure packs a punch).
This is from p. 34:
And then there's this:
My oh my oh that's good! Worship is all of life. It's the dishes I washed today, the beds I made, the grass I mowed, and, yes, the songs I sang during the services at Clearview. I want to worship God not just on Sundays but with the whole of my life.
Time to get my meals prepped for the week. Onward and, yes, upward!
6:45 AM The WOD is ressourcement. This is a French word describing the act of returning to the sources in order to glean from the past so that we might better live in the present. I'd argue, folks, that this is why we study ancient Greek and Hebrew. The engagement with the past is not merely a recollection of the past but an uncovering of meaning for the present. This explains the watch-cry of the Reformation: Ad fontes! Back to the sources! And what are those sources? The words of God written in Scripture. That's where we must always turn for normative wisdom.
Today during the panel discussion at Clearview, I hope to make this clear. "Dogmatics is science." So said Karl Barth in the opening of his Church Dogmatics. Theology and science are collaborative disciplines. Hence my lecture on New Testament Greek linguistics this coming Friday at Liberty University will be held in their new science building.
Though not identical in content and method, both linguistics and biblical exegesis are "sciences" in that they are both engaged in appeals to human rationality. What we're after is a better understanding of how the languages of the Bible work based on a scientific study of language itself. Exegesis is thus engaged with linguistics. It has to be. This is why I love teaching Greek from a linguistic perspective. Greek is both heuristic and utilitarian.
In Basel, where I studied from 1980-1983, theology was known as the "queen of the sciences." This expression is a holdover from the Middle Ages, a time when the Bible was seen as the ultimate source of truth. Hence theology became the standard by which other scientific disciplines had to abide. That standard no longer exists today, at least not in most European universities. The gold standard is no longer the Bible. Yet theology remains "queen" and the Bible remains the gold standard. Indeed, the Bible warns us against "the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge" (1 Tim. 6:20).
So let's get "back to the Bible." In the original languages if at all possible. Let all our research be "scientific" -- orderly and disciplined. Today it's no longer a question of faith versus reason. The choice is between a reasonable faith and a faithless reason.
Saturday, September 14
7:52 PM The first annual apologetics conference at Clearview is now in the books. What a great day of thinking about the Old and New Testaments. Both Peter and John absolutely shattered their topics. I was also very impressed with the audience. Many great questions were asked during the Q & A. Overall I'd say there were about 90 in attendance. Kazaam! A few pix:
1) Pastor Abidan Shah kicks off the conference.
2) So great to see John Meade again. Last year he spent a semester with us on campus as a visiting professor and we were in the same quad. Boy was that fun. John knocked it out of the ballpark with his lectures.
3) Peter Gurry is an amazing speaker. I love how he simplified his topics without becoming simplistic.
4) Books, books, and more books.
5) A big thanks to the marvelous staff at Clearview for making this happen.
On the docket for tomorrow: Panel discussion in both morning services. The hay is almost in the barn!
7:05 AM Here we go, heading out the door for the Text and Canon Conference at Clearview. Excited to see old friends and make new ones. What a big topic to dive into. I remember growing up in Hawaii and how we had conferences like these several times a year. Would not trade those times for anything. I think it was in those conferences that I fell in love with Bible study. The experts spoke, but they did so in such a way as to connect with ordinary Christians. The key question I have is: What will people do with all of this new information they get today? It's so easy to acquire information without allowing truth to change our lives. For example, when running a marathon you have to carefully monitor your hydration. Too little water can cause huge problems. Too much water can cause huge problems. Hydration has to be exact and balanced. Likewise with Bible study. Only a mind schooled at the Master's feet and illuminated by the Spirit can guide us aright. Sometimes, like Martha, we should be communing instead of working. We can be so busy doing that we have no time for being something. If we're not careful, we can easily become "Marthafied." The Bible does us no good unless it is mixed with faith (Heb. 4:2).
So let the conference begin! And let us receive the word for what it is, letting God be true and every man a liar. Hearing the word imposes a solemn responsibility of heeding it. Enjoy the privilege, accept the responsibility, and avoid the penalty of knowledge without obedience!
6:04 AM Today's key word is "Hamlet." Yes, indeed, the 2020 Flying Pig Marathon in Cincy next May, that is the question. To run or not to run. I'm allowed one (or at the most two) marathons per year, and I always like to try out new races. But the Pig was my very first marathon 3 years ago and it has a special place in my heart. I need to decide soon.
Sometimes I'm a terrible decision-maker. (This includes restaurants.) Many of life's decisions are simple yes-no questions. Should I major in Bible? Should I marry Becky? Should I apply to Basel? Should I leave Biola for Southeastern? Should I have dessert? Yes or no?
When faced with a "Hamlet" moment, you've got to decide which way to go. Stay or go? Yes or no? Right or left? Race or don't race? God promises to help us make good decisions. But it's conditional -- if we love Him and are called according to His purpose. My friend, have you made the decision to love Him? Have you given your heart to Christ as your Lord and Savior? The decision is yours to make. And the consequences are yours alone to live with. But once you've made the decision to follow Him, He'll be by your side every step of the way.
And so, what decisions are you facing these days? What great crossroad looms in your path? Whatever it is -- and no matter what it is -- your answer is but a prayer away. Of course, sometimes it feels like you're playing verbal ping-pong with God. But eventually you settle on a simple yes or no. The main thing is that we listen to the Lord. His is the most important voice of all. Leon Morris once wrote, "God has no need of marionettes. He pays men the compliment of allowing them to live without him if they choose. But if they live without him in this life, they must also live without him in the next."
Wise words indeed.
Friday, September 13
5:34 PM Today WAS a busy day! The weather couldn't have been better for another cycling workout deposited into my account for the Chicago Marathon. One day closer, a little more sharpening. I worked mostly on flow and leg turnover, keeping my average heart rate at 114 BPM. The temp never got over 75 and there was a light rain falling during the entire ride. I managed to complete the mileage I set out to accomplish.
Somehow I even managed to knock two minutes off of my time since my last 26.2-mile bike.
Afterwards I treated my hard-working body to a delicious sandwich at Subway.
All in all, a solid week of preparation for Chicago. Right now I've got to put the finishing touches on my talks for tomorrow as well as finish cleaning the house.
September 13, a good day indeed. I'm in the mood to give away a book. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free copy of New Testament Textual Criticism: A Concise Guide. I'll draw straws if there's more than one request.
Keep running, folks, just keep running your race, whatever that is!
6:45 AM Today's WOD is "correctness." Am I honestly doing my training for the Chicago Marathon correctly? Making it to the starting line is, of course, extremely important, but perhaps even more important are the stepping stones along the way. Ya gotta be as wise about your training as you are committed to the race itself. Hope that makes sense.
That said, today I'm going through my training goals for the next 4 weeks, looking myself in the mirror and asking, "Are you making the correct decisions?" We can get so excited about the race that we forget how vital it is to set up our training schedule properly. I've made that mistake before and don't want to repeat it now.
Signing off for now, and I will do my best to give you a report after I complete today's training block and a long list of farm chores. Whew, gonna be a busy day!
Thursday, September 12
5:40 PM Yesterday I got a report from a ministry in northern India that Becky and I have been intimately involved with for many years. There is strong opposition to Christianity all over the nation, the report said. Yet "There are hundreds of villages and people groups which remain unreached." This particular ministry is poised to reach some of the most needy of these people groups, situated as it is on the border of Nepal, Sikkim, and Bangladesh. Here's a photo they sent me.
It shows the men and women who are studying at the North East Theological Seminary. The seminary building is called the Becky Black Building. It was largely through Becky's vision (and hard work) that this building came into existence. Through all the joys and heartaches of cancer, Becky and I prayed that it would become a reality. I so wanted Becky to be the one to go and cut the ribbon when the building was dedicated. But it was not to be.
On this blog, I often talk about my life. My life? It's not mine. Never has been. I don't get to choose what it will look like. It's not about what I want. It's not even about what I need. As it turns out, the life I planned for myself is very different from the one God had in store. I've had to come to terms with the heart-rending fact that that incredible chapter of my life is over. Yet I take heart in the knowledge that Becky's good works live on -- in the lives of our children, in the lives of all who knew her, even in a faraway place like India. He is the God who knows the end and the beginning of everything, the one who works everything, even the hardest things, together for good. When God says He'll make everything good, He means it. This picture is proof.
12:55 PM O boy, o boy, my lunch today was sooooo tasty.
In fact, let's make that the second WOD -- "tasty." My fajita burrito sure hit the spot. And the nice thing about it is I was able to get two meals out of it, and all for the low price of $5.99. Not bad, folks, not bad.
So my lunch today was tasty, but that wasn't the only thing that was tasty this morning. My run was absolutely fantastic. My goal was a short 5 miles at a very easy pace in order to try out my new hydration vest.
Let's just say I much prefer having my hydration available throughout my runs/races and not just at the aid stations. Today I filled one 12-ounce bottle with a sports drink and the other with well water. I can safely say that I never got thirsty during my run today. I'm thrilled. With my new vest I'm also able to safely store my iPhone 7 in a pocket just over my left chest, which is a perfect place in terms of ease of availability. So all in all, a tasty morning. Of course, you never know who or what you'll encounter out there on the trails. Meet Nala, who's got to be the sweetest Pit Bull/Pointer mix I've ever met.
Her owner was kind enough to snap these pics.
He and I yakked about how much we love our dogs and find it regrettable but almost inevitable that we outlive them. I can't tell you how many of my beloved pets I've had to bury through the years. Yet who could live without them? They bring the human heart so much joy.
So what other "tasty" things are in store for me today? Mowing. Writing. Napping. House cleaning. And prepping for tomorrow's bike-a-thon in Richmond. That's right, Lord willing I plan to do a "bike marathon" of 26.2 miles at the Virginia Capital Trail. I've had this on my calendar for weeks and it's an important part of my training schedule for Chicago. The marathon is exactly one month away. Unbelievable. It will be here before you know it. Which means I have to stay on schedule as much as I can during the next 30 days. In 3 weeks I'll start my taper for Chicago, but until then I've got to stay laser focused on my current training block. I'm trying to play it smart and stay healthy and uninjured. Time will tell.
Hope you have a tasty day!
8:48 AM The key word for today is "Beginning." Every journey in life begins with that first step. This weekend I'll be speaking at a conference on textual criticism. Me, a textual critic? That's almost laughable. I am hardly an expert in the field. Neither am I a novice. I'm probably in about, say, the 12th grade, while others are in college or grad school. But -- and this is a huge but -- I wouldn't be where I am today if hadn't taken that first step.
Let's see, where did it all begin ...." (flashback machine starts here).
My first exposure to textual criticism (TC) was under Dr. Harry Sturz at Biola. I found the subject fascinating, not least because Sturz held a position that seemed to fly in the face of both the Alexandrian Priority position and the Byzantine Priority position. Taking his class on TC allowed me to read those hieroglyphics at the bottom of my Greek New Testament and eventually led me to write an M.Div. thesis at Talbot on the question of whether the words "in Ephesus" in Eph. 1:1 were original. I argued that they were -- and published my views in the Grace Theological Journal in 1981. This was a year after I had arrived in Basel to get my doctorate in New Testament. During this time I began publishing essays in journals like Novum Testamentum and New Testament Studies on textual variants that I had become interested in. Finally, in 1994 I published a brief lay introduction to TC called New Testament Criticism: A Concise Guide. Recalling my own interests as a beginning student of TC, I was careful to keep the book on the bottom shelf. I later produced other writings on TC: Rethinking New Testament Textual Criticism, Perspectives on the Ending of Mark, and The Pericope of the Adulteress in Contemporary Research.
This brings me to today. You can probably guess that I love to make things accessible to the average Christian. That's exactly what I'll try to do at this Saturday's conference. My goal, simply put, is to connect the scholarly guild with the church. Too often they are put into two different boxes. This impoverishes both, in my humble opinion. I'll try to set the right balance between academics and church life. Scholarship is not healthy without application. I dare to hope that my books have been a help in both categories. By the way, here's the schedule for Saturday's conference:
8:00 am -- Doors open
9:10 am -- Old Testament Text, John Meade
10:15 am -- New Testament Text, Peter Gurry
11:25 am -- Application of Textual Criticism to the Christian Life, Dave Black
12:25 pm -- Lunch
1:35 pm -- The Canon of Scripture, John Meade
2:40 pm -- Modern Translations, Peter Gurry
3:50 pm -- Greek Preaching: Practical Applications, Dave Black
5:00 pm -- Conference ends
Maybe this conference will help you make a new "beginning" in your study of the Bible!
P.S. This is what I read in my morning Bible reading on the front porch. It's from 1 Timothy 6.
"Avoid the talk-show religion and the practiced confusion of the so-called experts. People caught up in a lot of talk can miss the whole point of faith." A great motto for conferences like the one on Saturday for sure!
Wednesday, September 11
7:42 PM Here we go again, just back on the old farm after 3 days of teaching. The WOD is "mental toughness." Ladies and gentlemen, I'm firmly in the camp that says if you don't develop mental toughness, you'll never succeed in the race of life. Ya gotta put in the work if you want to expect great results. We can aspire to learn Greek, for example, but the race is usually won or lost in the first 3 or 4 weeks of the semester. I want my students to arrive at week 5 tough and as confident as possible, which in turn will make them even tougher for the weeks ahead. How's your mental confidence? Are you getting tougher as you get older? I'm truly excited for my students. They are off to a great start. But they (and I) never outgrow the need to stay mentally alert and tough.
Well, as you know, today is my 43rd anniversary. One of my kids sent along this picture.
Oh my, what a happy memory. This was taken exactly 6 years ago today. Less than 2 months later, Becky would be in heaven. No more pain, no more struggle. Because she was too weak for us to go out and celebrate, one of my daughters set up a "restaurant" in our formal living room. Party of two! She even prepared Swiss fondue for us as a reminder of our days in Basel, and then waited on us hand and foot. An unforgettable evening to be sure. Becky Lynn, you still mean the world to me today. You were a blessing to everyone who knew you. I’ll see you in glory one day, sweetheart. Love you big!
Okay, so what are my plans going into the weekend? This morning I had a great workout at the Y in Wake Forest. Worked them biceps and triceps. Worked, worked, worked. This means no lifting for 2 days. Tomorrow I hope to get in a long run, and then do another long bike ride on Friday. Not sure how long, but at least 10 miles. Then, Saturday is the BIG DAY. Hope you can join us in Henderson for our apologetics conference. There'll be a book giveaway in case you need any further incentive to attend.
Finally, a quick shout out to Dr. Ant Greenham who gave a wonderful lecture today in our NT class. His topic was Muslim evangelism and the book of Acts.
It was a fascinating talk. I can't tell you how much I love and cherish the academic community to which I belong. It's got to be the greatest group of guys and gals in the world.
Well, time to wash the supper dishes. Stay tuned for how my training goes tomorrow!
Monday, September 9
6:15 AM Just a friendly reminder: The Clearview Apologetics Conference is this Saturday in Henderson, NC, from 9:00-4:00. To register, please go here. Come and hear my good friends John Meade (OT) and Peter Gurry (NT) from Phoenix Seminary!
5:20 AM Good morning, one and all! The WOD is "comfort." The human body was designed to move. To be tested. "Comfort" has largely replaced that. We go from our air-conditioned homes to our cars with heated seats. I remember attending the annual SNTS meeting in Montreal one August. To say it was hot would be a gross understatement. Becky and I got the surprise of our lives when the university put us up in housing without any air conditioning. We slept on the balcony at night to try and stay cool. I thought every developed nation had air conditioning. I was wrong.
How quickly we get used to the comforts of life. Yet none of these comforts really seem to make us happy. Maybe we were designed to find comfort through discomfort. When you lose the comforts of life, that's when you find out what you're truly made of. A year ago I did a 31-mile ultramarathon. It was probably the hardest thing I've ever done. It nearly broke me. But I can't describe to you the satisfaction I felt when I crossed the finish line. Why do runners punish themselves like that? Maybe because, like a pearl, God's way of working in our lives is by turning our biggest irritations into priceless gems.
What comforts are you willing to forego in order to test your mettle? While we sleep the Enemy does his work. Even sound Christians can be sound asleep. This is no day for weaklings. The Christian has never had more to face from more directions than now. An old saying puts it like this:
I need more of all three!
Sunday, September 8
8:22 PM Enjoying some ice cream while watching the sun go down over Clarkesville, "my fair city." Been a great day. Hope yours was too.
6:42 PM Just finished my delicious supper and am now rolling out my tired legs on my new foam roller.
Love it, love it, love it! Also, these were my notes during today's message from 2 Tim. 1:12 (sorry for the water stains).
Once again, ya gotta love the two perfect tense verbs. Badda Boom! Badda Bang! Again, though, it all comes down to how you would translate them. I'm not going to tell you how I did it!
Time now for a hot fudge sundae. "Sunday." Get it? :-)
5:50 PM Today after church I hiked to MacAfee Knob.
It's said to be the most photographed spot on the Appalachian Trail and I believe it! This is my fourth time standing on its (in)famous ledge.
My legs weren't the freshest after 3 big weeks of training, but somehow I managed to pull it off.
This mountain hike is a thing of beauty from beginning to end. It was well worth the 3 hour drive to get there. What a journey hiking and mountaineering have been for me. Not easy, but very rewarding. I do hope to return to the Rockies and Alps some day, but in the meantime our local 3-4,000 footers will do just fine. Thank you, Lord, for giving all of us hikers such a beautiful day!
5:55 AM The WOD is "inspiration." Where do you draw your inspiration from? Can a movie inspire you? Last night on YouTube I watched a movie about running called Leadman: The Dave Mackey Story. It was so good. Everyone who finishes a 100 mile foot race is courageous, but to me there's something heroic about a man who does it on one leg. Even if you've never been a runner, this film will draw you in and inspire you. Oh my, the indomitable human spirit. Everyone has one, even non-believers. It's a pure gift from God.
But those who trust in God have something more. In Jer. 32:27, God asks, "Is anything too hard for me?" Nothing is too difficult for God. Your impossibility might be the loss of a limb or the loss of a loved one or feelings of inferiority or your job or a marriage that is falling apart. For me it's dealing with the memory of Becky. It's that feeling of loss that will come flooding over me this Wednesday on what would have been our 43rd wedding anniversary. Grief takes you to the top of the wave and then it breaks, and you struggle in the froth of emotion until the wave runs out of energy, which it eventually does. To try and resist the wave is an exercise in futility. You have to let it do its work in your life and mourn.
Will you ever forget the emotional pain of your loss? No. There will always be a small kernel that emerges at certain times for years. Will you ever be able to move on with your life? Yes. Never forget Jer. 32:27: "Is anything too hard for me?" For the word "anything," why not substitute the burden you are carrying at this moment? Go ahead and fill in the blank: "Is ___________ too hard for God?" Once it sinks in that God is at work in and through your "impossible" situation, everything will change. It may be as dramatic as watching new sprouts erupt from an old tree stump. I know, because I've been there. Friend, I can assure you, after the winter, comes the spring. Yes, you will continue to remember, but the pain will subside. The ache in your heart will go away. Hope will replace despair and a smile a frown.
Dave Mackey let his loss become a force for good in his life. What a wonderful story. I love these stories and appreciate the strength of these athletes. They are inspirational to us all. And as followers of Jesus, we have an even greater source of strength and inspiration. I don't want to slog through life. Neither do I want to rush through it. We need to take it one day at a time. And when we do, we'll be blown away by the goodness of our God.
Saturday, September 7
4:50 PM The Hopscotch 8K is now in the books and, phew!, what a wild race it was, one of the best of my life. I managed a very respectable pace without tiring during the race or collapsing afterwards. From the gun going off, we ran uphill and then downhill, and boy was it hilly.
I felt amazing the whole distance. I am beyond excited at how well my legs held up during the race. I never slowed down and I never once walked, not even through the aid stations. My race strategy today was a simple one. I would line up about two thirds of the way back and start out at a fairly easy pace and then ease up to an 11-minute mile pace. As you can see, not too many gray-haired folk out there today!
Per usual, at about mile one I fell in with a group of runners who were running at my pace and tried to keep up with them, letting them pace me through an unfamiliar course. My "pacers," as you can see here, were a guy in I'd say his late 20s and three young ladies who looked like they were in high school.
They paced me through mile 4 and a half, where I turned on the afterburners and made my way toward the finish line.
Praise the Lord, I finished well under my goal of 1 hour.
Overall I am happy with my marathon training. And I'm super excited to have tried something new in 2019. What a gift running is!
I hope y'all are pursuing your dreams, whatever they may be. Don't be afraid to try something new. You may learn something about yourself that you can apply to all areas of your life. Now I look forward to running the historic Virginia 10-Miler in Lynchburg on the 28th of this month.
Fellow runners, congratulations on your efforts out there today, and see you at our next race. Thanks especially to my unknown pacers. You pulled me toward the finish line. You inspired me to push through and finish. You all were winners today.
Time now to cook me some supper and chillax!
6:10 AM The WOD (word of the day) is "humility." The men and women of the Bible struggled with pride. They were real people with real weaknesses. I feel a certain kinship with them. How easy it is for us to wield "power," to take our "well-deserved" position at the top, to use our gifts to promote ourselves. Among Jesus' disciples, I suppose Peter was the one who could have done this most easily. After all, he's actually named "first" in the lists of the apostles. Yet as you read 1 Peter, you see how the Spirit of God had shaped in him a humility that lacked nothing in courage or imagination. Peter's whole life is a compelling witness to what he himself describes as "lowliness of mind." He writes, "God has had it with the proud. He takes delight in just plain people."
Peter's example is a breath of fresh air. He stayed out of the center. Jesus, our Chief Shepherd/Lead Pastor (1 Pet. 5:4), alone belongs there. Godly leaders are content to be foot washers.
Off to the city of Sir Walter Raleigh to do my first ever 8K. Onward and upward!
Friday, September 6
8:18 PM Up we go! Always climbing higher in our pursuit to summit those peaks God sets before us, be they athletic pursuits or intellectual ones. A big part of our "training," of course, involves reading, and here are two good resources for you to consider. The first is a book I'm having my NT class read for Wednesday. Throughout my teaching ministry I've tried to give some priority to evangelism, and it's worth remarking that some of the best books on the subject were written decades ago. This is one of them.
How shall we do missions? That's the question all of us wrestle with. Well, Roland Allen charted the way forward by, in essence, calling us back to the methods of the apostle Paul. I love books like this, and I think you will too.
Secondly, this essay just appeared in the journal New Testament Studies.
In my experience, defenses of the Paulinity of Hebrews are rare. Why? For years we've been told that Origen confessed ignorance about the author -- and so should we. Alas, this consensus is being challenged nowadays. Before I go and wash the dinner dishes, I'm a little embarrassed to do so, but I'd like to mention my book on the subject, which is available at Amazon.
Half of the book looks at the internal evidence in favor of Paul as the author of Hebrews, while the other half examines the external evidence. And what about Origen? I deal with that subject in my appendix, "Origen on the Authorship of Hebrews." I am curious to see what you think about this whole matter, so if you post something on your website let me know so I can link to it.
Remember: Let's welcome new approaches to old questions, and then hold our personal convictions in love!
6:20 PM Quote of the day (Conrad Grebel):
This was Grebel's response when he was asked where he found his new view of the Christian church. I love Zwingli and have studied his life. I have profited from his writings. But the Anabaptists were right: The clear teaching of the New Testament was more important than the teachings of their earthly teacher. Please, fellow students of the Word, let's never put the writings of our favorite Bible scholars above the Bible itself!
5:44 PM Today was a day for "active recovery," meaning I went to the gym and focused on functional exercises (strength, core, etc.). Afterwards was Mexican food for lunch with a friend and then a nice long nap. Tonight I intend to go on a casual walk to get the old legs moving again, but nothing too far or too wild. I'm actually very good at doing nothing when I need to. The rest of the day I'll spend rolling my muscles and eating some good food, drinking tons of water, and stretching out my legs. Just trying to walk that balance between staying off my feet and doing nothing.
By the way, today my WOD (word of the day) was "trust." The Christian life is an act of trust maybe more than anything else. Trust removes all "no trespassing" signs from our relationship with the Lord. We surrender our worries and cares to Him and rest in an environment of trust, respect, and mutual love. We give God enough elbow room in our lives to do what He's best at doing -- turning our impossibilities into His possibilities. So, every chance I have today I'm going to go to the Lord and say like the man whose son had an evil spirit, "Lord, I do believe. Please, please help me overcome my unbelief."
Are you trying to move a mountain today on your own, my friend? I can tell ya, it ain't gonna budge an inch if you try and do the job alone. It just ain't. But there's every chance in the world if you entrust the task to God.
7:40 AM Time for a great debate ... not really ... unless you want to! Middle versus deponent -- a fairly contested and hot topic within the scholarly community. There are 16 verbals in 3 John (the letter we're studying this semester in Advanced Grammar) that are non-active or that come from non-active verbs. Cab you pick out some of them here?
You'll find many opinions on this topic. Are so-called deponent verbs true middles? And if so, how should we translate them?
6:10 AM Good morning, internets, on a very gusty day here in southern Virginia. The storm has now moved off the coast of the Old Dominion State. Virginia Beach, which last week was all bright and sunshiny, is now experiencing the brunt of the rain and wind. Prayers going up for sure. This morning I was up early getting caught up on family finances and then it's off to the Y and lunch with a buddy. If the weather forecasters are correct, Sunday should be nice and sunny in Roanoke, and if it is, I plan to hike MacAfee Knob, which means I'll go to tomorrow night's service. But first, I'm rereading chapters 3-4 in Robertson's Big Grammar. I've already found several quotable quotes. Whatcha think of these?
"It was really an epoch in the world's history when the babel of tongues was hushed in the wonderful language of Greece" (p. 55).
"Judea was not an oasis in the desert, but was merged into the Graeco-Roman world" (p. 77).
"There is no distinct biblical Greek, and the N.T. is not a variety of the LXX Greek" (p. 77).
"A single hour lovingly devoted to the text of the Septuagint will further our exegetical knowledge of the Pauline Epistles more than a whole day spent over a commentary" (p. 93).
"The only Bible known to most of the Jews in the world in the first century was the LXX" (p. 101).
"One cannot protest too strongly against the leveling process of an unsympathetic and unimaginative linguistic method that puts all the books of the N.T. through the same exegetical mill and tags this sense as 'regular' and that one as 'irregular'" (p. 117).
"Es überrascht uns nicht mehr, dass jeder paulinische Brief eine Reihe von Wörten enthält, die den übrigen unbekannt sind" (p. 130).
As you can see, there's tons of interesting stuff for us cover in class on Monday night. As well, two students will be making Power Point presentations over two chapters from my forthcoming book Linguistics and New Testament Greek: Thomas Hudgin's chapter on "Electronic Tools," and Rob Plummer's chapter on "The Ideal Beginning Grammar."
So, here I am, just a guy trying to stay abreast of everything that's going on in New Testament Greek studies and feeling like I'm wading on the shore of a limitless ocean. Ever feel that way? I just wonder when I'll ever feel caught up. Probably never. But it's the journey, folks, it's the journey that's counts.
Onward and upwards!
Thursday, September 5
5:52 PM Man, o man, o man, fall is almost here, ladies and gentlemen. I don't know about you, but I'm ready.
I don't think the temp got much over 75 today, and right now a light sprinkle is falling on the fields of rural Mecklenburg County, Virginia. O boy o boy. I've always loved the fall. Where I live, the summers can be hot, almost too hot I would say. The fall weather, however, is magnificent. Some days you walk outside and say to yourself, "Lord, the weather could not possibly be more perfect. Thank You." Can't wait to snuggle in front on my fireplace again with a good book. The best part about fall, however, is that everything around you is changing. You're about to experience yet another new normal, which I guess is another way of saying that fall is a good time for new beginnings, new plans, new goals.
Today I decided I would get in a run but only after I had gone over my calendar for the fall, winter, and spring 2019-2020. The local Amish bakery was the perfect place to sip some coffee and do this.
Right now I'm praying over my international travels, including a big trip to Asia planned for next March or April. As for this fall/winter, I'm considering two invitations, one to Nepal and another to Guyana. Then it was off to the Tobacco Heritage Trail, where I did a 5K run in order to put some miles on my brand new New Balance 880 running shoes.
They performed splendidly.
When I got home I saw that FedEx had delivered my new running vest and a new foam roller.
We all want to stay healthy and uninjured, right? It's a process, it's a process. For one thing, ya gotta stay hydrated on your runs, which is why I purchased my running vest. I can't wait to try it out during Saturday's 8K in Raleigh. For another thing, ya gotta roll out all those stiff muscles. I think we runners sometimes underestimate the importance of stretching and rolling, but you want to arrive at the starting line of your next race as fresh as possible and as fit as possible. My foam roller knows all the intricate parts of my body and does its best to take care of them. I'm not kidding you when I say that it feels like you're getting a massage but for only a fraction of the cost. You can get a roller for about $15 through Amazon. Here I am instructing Sheba on the correct use of the foam roller. I'm thinking it might help her with her stiff limbs.
Folks, I think my body is finally adjusting to marathon training. After long workouts I've started drinking chocolate milk. What a heaven-sent beverage. That, plus taking long hot showers. Right now it's time to have supper and then I think I'll spend time praying for those in the Bahamas who were hit so hard by Dorian. Hope you have a splendid weekend. Keep reminding yourself that fall is a good time to make those much-needed changes in our lives. We must know and remind ourselves that we all fail because we are all human. Yet with Christ's help, we can embrace the failures and in fact begin to carve out our true character.
Onward and upward!
8:48 AM It looks like rain might be on its way today, so I think I'll wait until later to climb MacAfee. So, what shall I do today? Today I'm thinking small. My body is a little tired (I had a really heavy workout at the Y in Wake Forest yesterday), so I'll probably do either a short bike, a short swim, or a short run. The key word for me today is "goal." If you really want to do something, you'll find a way. I think the key is to choose a manageable goal. We often pick off more than we can chew. I know someone who buys every gimmick out there to learn Greek. He's got all the books and CDs and has enrolled in all the latest online courses. Folks, I'm a huge believer in using the tools that are available to us, but when you're trying to learn Greek it's best to start off small. To use an analogy, a Greek student can't go from running (as it were) a 5K to running a marathon. I think I ran 8 half marathons before I attempted my first full. Especially if you're new to something, it's important that you don't sabotage your efforts by trying to do everything at once. Taking baby steps is vital in order to make progress. My greatest piece of advice for you -- I know you will be shocked to hear it -- is to purchase one good beginning (or intermediate) grammar and stick with it. Not to be shallow, but sometimes you've got to resist the urge to buy into the latest fad. I've said this 5 million times on this blog: the key to progress is persistence. You take one step at a time, one chapter in your textbook at a time, one goal at a time. The trick to motivation is not to overdo it. Let's face it, we've all started out to do something and then a few months or weeks or days later we've gone on to other pursuits. But if you're really committed to learning Greek (or learning how to run a marathon or whatever) you have to make a decision to follow through. Keep at it, because you never know what can happen. When I dropped Greek after 3 weeks, I thought the party was over. But God had other plans. The bottom line is, what matters to you is what is important. And remember: We're not alone and can learn from each other.
Putting in hours of training.
The result: A new PR at the St. George (Utah) Marathon!
6:45 AM Oh my, another rich time in the word this morning.
I've been reading Acts 13 in the NEB and The Message. In both, the word ekklēsia in verse 1 is rendered "congregation." I like that.
The noun ekklēsia means something like "a group of people that have come together and have something in common." (This is opposed to an ochlos, which is a group of people that have come together and don't seem to have anything in common with each other except for the fact that they are, for example, shopping at Target.) Of course, ekklēsia can be glossed in several different ways. (A gloss is a summary of the meaning of the word that's suitable, say, for an interlinear.) Other English glosses for ekklēsia include "assembly," "meeting," and "church." We could also use "gathering" or "community." Here in Acts 13:1, I think the rendering "congregation" works, and works well. The New Testament understands the ekklēsia to be a community of people, living and meeting together in such a way that love, the supreme gift (1 Cor. 13:13), can be realized, as well as the other gifts of the Spirit. The church is a community loved and chosen by God, drawing its life from Him and manifesting this divine life in the basic Christian graces of faith, hope, and love. It is a community bought into being by the Gospel and one that is continuously shaped by the Gospel. Hence it can be justly called a "Gospel church."
Every now and then it's good to press the pause button and rethink how we translate certain Greek words into English. I'm excited to hear your thoughts about what a New Testament congregation looks like. If you publish your ideas on your blog, send me the post so I can link to it here.
This morning I was thinking a lot about the churches where I live. Truth be told, cultural Christianity is alive and well in some parts of the good ol' U.S. of A. This is well documented in a book I just finished by Dean Inserra. It's called The Unsaved Christian. A recurrent theme in this book is how easy it is to let our local churches become incubators for cultural Christianity. The "remedy," according to the author, is "a gospel centrality that confronts Cultural Christians with the truth about Christ and themselves." Here are a few more quotes from this excellent book:
The result: Churchianity and religiosity have turned people away from the Lord. "The Gentiles blaspheme the name of God because of you," wrote Paul (Rom. 2:24). The fact is, God has established his ekklēsia to be His representative in this world. And if our Christianity isn't contagious, it's very likely contaminated.
By the way, don't you enjoy reading books that are really well written? I find them inspiring and humbling. Margaret Mitchell, who wrote Gone with the Wind, once reported that her writing was going splendidly until she read the manuscript of John Brown's Body, another book from the Civil War era. "John Brown's Body gave me such a terrible case of the humbles that it was months before I could find the necessary faith in myself." Yep. Good authors can be intimidating. Funny thing is, we remember Gone with the Wind and nobody's ever heard of John Brown's Body!
A final word to my Greek students. I know that class this week was like drinking from a fire hydrant. But that's the nature of the Greek verb system. Don't give up hope. Read the chapter over and over again until things click. Don't try and take the easy way out. If you find yourself Googling "How to learn Greek without studying," you just might be in trouble. Seek out help. We are here to tutor you over this first speed bump!
Wednesday, September 4
7:12 PM Well, well, the hay is almost in the barn, both literally and figuratively.
Nate's taking care of the latter.
Meanwhile, all I have to do is grade the papers from today's NT 2 class and then record the quiz scores from yesterday's Greek 1 class and I can officially say, "The hay IS in the barn for this week of school." So far my great students are smashing it, including this group of 37 stalwart pupils taking their first quiz in beginning Greek yesterday.
Tomorrow my goal will turn from teaching to preparing for the Chicago Marathon in October. It's only 39 days away.
For the next 5 weeks my aim will be to build the aerobic engine and arrive at the starting line both fit and fresh. I want to feel rested when I get to Chicago, and I want to feel prepared. So as part of my current training block, I've scheduled an 8K race this Saturday in Raleigh.
I've actually never done an 8K before, so I'm not too sure what to expect. Goodness, I don't even know how far 8 kilometers is. Hold on a minute. Okay. Dr. Google tells me that 8 kilometers equals 5 miles. I think that may be just the perfect distance when you're coming off of back-to-back half marathon weekends. Tomorrow it's back to cross training -- either a long bike or a climb in the mountains. If the latter, I'm thinking of getting back to what is perhaps my favorite spot on the Appalachian Trail -- MacAfee Knob. In the meantime, I'm keeping a close eye on my diet. This week I tried to cook all of my own meals, though for lunch today I couldn't resist a piping hot plate of Korean Teriyaki Chicken at the Seoul Garden in Raleigh.
I topped that off this evening with a huge serving of Chicken Tikka Masala which I prepared as soon as I arrived back on the farm.
While I was down in Raleigh I stopped by Fleet Feet to buy a new pair of running shoes (New Balance, of course) as well as a pair of lightweight running shorts.
Unbelievably, with all the running I've done over the past four and a half years, I've never owned a pair of running shorts. My swimming shorts have worked just fine. But now that I've tried on a pair of these running shorts (again, New Balance), I'll never go back to swim trunks. Patience and fortitude are frankly the most important attributes you can bring to the sport of running, but having the right gear (including proper clothing and shoes) is also essential. As I continue to dabble in this sport, I'm eager to test my limits, within reasonable boundaries of course. I promised my doctors as much and I will keep my word. Saturday's 8K will be just another little step toward the level of fitness I'd like to achieve some day. I fight on toward that end.
I'm sorry if you get tired of all my musings about life, teaching, and racing. I have to say, all three are consuming and monopolizing my brain nowadays, so that's normally what you get to read about on the blog. It isn't the shoes or new socks or comfy pants that make me a runner. It's running. I realize that, every time I pin on a race bib, I'm a runner. A real runner, not just someone who runs. It's through running (duh) that we become runners. It's through studying Greek -- and never giving up, even when we have setbacks -- that makes us Greek students. That most of us will never experience the thrill of coming in first place in either a foot race or a classroom competition is never any excuse to abandon the search for our personal victories. It's a game you don't have to play to win. But you do have to give it your best.
Okay, onward to the rest of the week. Ciao!
Tuesday, September 3
6:45 AM If you're a newbie to the Greek verb, my advice to you would be to learn how to divide a word into its morphemes -- or minimal units of meaning. For example, in English:
You get the idea. So when you learn the present tense of the verb luō ("I loose"), you will always try and pick out the word's morphemes. For example:
As you start (or continue) Greek class this week, do not think about how you paid good money to engage in this kind of suffering. In other words, keep your head up and your mind positive. It takes guts and persistence to learn Greek, and I am 67 years old and still chugging along, learning new things every day. After all is said and done, it will have been worth your effort. Working hard is a big part of the Greek learning game. Luck? Nope, not in this field. It really comes down to language aptitude, sound training, and, most of all, an off-the-charts work ethic. I'm a big fan of putting your head down when it comes to chasing down your dreams, whether that's to learn Greek or to run a marathon. It's always "Onwards and upwards."
Now go get to work.
Monday, September 2
5:08 PM So here goes. How did you translate:
Hmm. Did you try:
"Rejoice! We have overcome!"
That's good. Real good! But that's not how I did it. Et voila!
"Be joyful! We are victorious!"
Yep. I bet that's what good old Pheidippedes told the Athenian council. Do you see now why I think those 2 Greek words are so useful in helping us to think through our view of Greek verbal aspect -- and how to translate those nuances into English? "Be joyful" is imperfective aspect. "We are victorious" is perfective aspect. See?
Okay. Duh. Pretty obvious, I know. But hey, I'll grab any excuse to talk about marathoning!
4:10 PM We all have our post-running rituals -- things we do after a long training block or a major racing event. For me, recovery usually invokes 3 things: a short workout of some kind, a time to indulge my food cravings, and either a massage or an easy swim in a nice cold pool. Today my lifting at the Y consisted of a very basic upper body workout using dumbbells weighing no more than 15 pounds.
Then it was off to Mi Careta for a scrumptious helping of arros con pollo.
Finally, it was time for one last swim at the county pool, which closes this evening and will stay closed until next Memorial Day.
After I let my lunch digest, I got in a few wonderful laps in some very refreshing cold water, then I did what all self-respecting Greek profs do when they're lazing by the pool. I read a book. Not just any book, mind you, but this one.
I haven't done so much underlining and circling in a long time. This is one good read!
You've heard people say it a million times. Stress takes its toll on a body. That's why it's important to schedule recovery days into your training and not feel guilty for taking time off from running to let your muscles recover. Tonight my legs are feeling good and they'll feel even better after I roll them. It's hard perhaps to believe that inactivity is just as important to a runner as being active, but an active lifestyle requires periods of rest and relaxation. Some call this "strategic inactivity," and it's something we all do from time to time (or ought to do). I often quip with my Greek students when we're saying goodbye after class, "Study hard, but not too hard!" Not too long ago, during a moment of questionable sanity, I made the decision to run two marathons back to back (they were only 2 weeks apart). But let me tell you, life in the fast lane eventually catches up with you. Oh, does it ever. The early warning system of over-training is always there, but it can be very subtle. The vast majority of injuries are caused by over-training. We run when we know we should be resting. We run too many miles. We run too hard on easy days. Of course, resting doesn't necessarily mean inactivity. Today I was active. I just wasn't running or doing anything too stressful for my old bod -- except chowing down a huge plate of food. That kind of over-indulging, however, is A-OK on the day after a big race, in my humble opinion.
Yesterday I had one of the most successful runs I've ever had. The race yesterday was all about the simple joy of getting out there and running. What matters is that we enjoy the process, folks!
7:34 AM Today it's time to put the finishing touches on my lectures for the week, including Greek 1. Please, please, please, if you're going to learn the Greek present tense, learn the future tense at the same time.
Only makes sense. The only difference is one Greek letter. Imagine that! As you will often hear me say: Greek has mathematical precision. It just does. Especially when you take a few basic, basic concepts of linguistics (like morphology) and apply them on a level that even a language dummy like me can understand.
This year marks my 43rd of teaching. I don't say that to brag. I say that so that you know I love teaching people like you Greek. Yes, folks, I'm in it for long haul. What a journey it's been, sharing my love for Greek with all of you. I wish I had more time to type out all of my thoughts and feelings and share them with you. The journey has been exciting, joyful, and at times tiring, but my students have given me so much in return. So thank you for your interest in Greek and in this blog. Thank you for caring about what counts for eternity. Greek class this week is going to be amazing. I think you'll love our approach to the Greek verb. Just sayin'.
5:45 AM It's kinda strange. I remember the days when I couldn't wait to read the New Testament in its original Greek. Nowadays I often prefer reading multiple versions of the New Testament to see how they render the Greek. This morning I was in 2 Corinthians 12, Paul's "Fool's Speech." I had The Message and the NEB in front of me.
I love the NEB's rendering of these verses:
It's odd: I wrote a doctoral dissertation on Paul's concept of weakness, yet I still have to learn and relearn it over and over again. When we get something other than what we want, we tend to become moody and whinny. "Please take this away from me, Dad!" Sometimes we cry and stay down. At other times we cry and then move on, realizing that (as I said on Saturday) God's "No" is a sign that He has something far better in mind for us than we could ever have possibly imagined from our limited perspective. Paul's "thorn in the flesh" (perhaps -- runners take note! -- some kind of a sharp physical pain) could have gotten him down. But the Bible is full of stories of people who found God's-strength-in-weakness to be absolutely true. It helps to know that God doesn't write us off as failures whenever we fall into the slough of despair. He draws us back with His love when we feel like running away and fleeing.
Okay, enough about my morning devotions. Here's a question for ya: What two Greek words do all marathoners know? I mean, every marathoner knows these two words! The reason I ask this is because this week we begin our discussion of the verb system in beginning Greek, and we'll talk not only about tense but also about aspect -- in other words, not only when something happens but how that action is portrayed by the author. So here are the two Greek words:
Got it? How would you translate them? Notice that the first verb is an imperative in the present tense, whereas the second verb is an indicative in the perfect tense. In other words, the first verb indicates imperfective aspect, while the second verb indicates perfective aspect. (For pedagogical reasons I still use the term "aoristic" aspect for the aorist tense and "perfective" aspect for the perfect tense. But you can call them whatever you like.)
By the way, in case you don't know what I'm talking about, the first marathon was run in approximately 490 B.C. The story goes that a messenger named Pheidippedes (or was it Philippedes -- no one knows for sure) ran from the coastal city of Marathon to Athens and excitedly announced to the council a great victory over the Persians: Chairete! Nenikēkamen! Then he collapsed and died. (That story has one bummer of an ending.) The first modern "marathon" was held in Athens in 1896. Nowadays marathons are run everywhere. But it all began with those two words.
Now, those two little Greek words are a good test to see what you believe about Greek verbal aspect. So here's your assignment for today. (I know it's a holiday today, but surely I can ask you to do a little work seeing that it's Labor Day.) How would you translate those two Greek words? Write down your answer on a 100 dollar bill and send it to me by snail mail. (Sorry, Car Talk.) I'll give you my answer to that question later today (if I remember).
Speaking of running, I was disappointed to finish 2,979th out of 5,299 runners in yesterday's half marathon.
But I was even more heartbroken to miss coming in first place by 1 hour and 39 seconds. The blink of an eye, really. I lost to some guy named Harrison Toney. All right, Harrison. I'll be coming for you next year. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Sunday, September 1
5:26 PM Oh me, oh my oh! What a crazy, crazy, CRAZY weekend it's been! I mean, CRAAAAZY! You know, don't you, that runners are a bunch of over-achievers. We sometimes push our bodies more than they are ready for. What happens when you succumb to this temptation? Injury. Today, I almost succumbed. The key word is "almost." Spurgeon once said, "The worst thing that can happen to a man who gambles is to win." Well, folks, I almost "won" today, but the key word, again, is almost.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Yesterday I drove to Virginia Beach and arrived at the expo at around noon. Since I had procrastinated, I had to register there instead of online, but the process went smoothly and I got my race bib. I grabbed my t-shirt and then skedaddled because I wanted to get to the beach. Folks, I'm telling you, the best time to visit Virginia Beach is definitely not on Labor Day weekend. The crowds smothered the strand. I was thinking that the north end of the beach would be less crowded, but the crowds there were just as bad. I miraculously found a parking spot at 31st street and unloaded my board. Obviously I couldn't take my camera with me in the water, but you can see from this photo that the surf conditions were definitely not flat.
There was hardly anybody in the water, whether surfers or swimmers. I heard that the undertow was pretty bad and the lifeguards were discouraging people from venturing too far out. I counted one other surfer during the hour or so that I was frolicking in the surf. Needless to say, I had a blast. Afterwards, I checked into my Airbnb. It was a condo located in one of the nicer parts of V Beach and had a large bed and a gigantic private bath. I rested and then carb loaded at the local Olive Garden. I guess I must have turned in at around 9:00 and was wide awake at exactly 4:15 as planned. I got dressed and drove to Dennys for my traditional pre-race breakfast consisting of two pancakes and two strong cups of coffee. Mmm mmm good! Then it was time to find my corral and my 2:45 pace group. Oh, I forgot to say that as soon as I walked outdoors this morning it felt unseemingly warm. Even worse was the humidity. Not exactly a runner's favorite race conditions for sure. Here's my corral at the start at 6:30.
Six corrals had already started running. The air horn goes off and, man, the humidity is already killing us. My goal today was to hang with the 2:45 pace group until mile 9 or 10 and then, if I had anything left in my legs, begin to push ahead and try and break last week's time of 2:38. Sure enough, something happened at mile 10, but it wasn't me sprinting off toward the finish line. Folks, it isn't always easy being a runner. One of the canons of running is to always be true to yourself. At mile 10, my goal went out the window.
In one sputtering moment, my dream was shattered. My legs, my lungs, my body gave out. I had to concede defeat. I wasn't going to break 2:38, not today. I probably wasn't even going to come in under 3 hours, which itself would be a great achievement in a race that has a time limit of 4 hours. I slowed down, and as I munched on popsicles and placed cold towels on my neck and walked through sprayers and sprinklers, I knew in my heart of hearts that I had done the right thing. I had acted like a true athlete. I had respected my body. Here you can see how my pace began to go belly up at around mile 10.
But I've always said that it's the process that matters most, not the end results. Sure, you feel disappointed when you don't achieve a race goal. Yet I knew how much I could push my body, and my body was just saying "No." When I first started running, the joy for me was running to the edge in every race. These days I run because I love the sport. The simple act of putting one foot in front of the other never ceases to amaze me and make me grateful to the One who gave me legs to run on. I'm overjoyed that I can run even when my run isn't perfect. I finished the race and the course photographer snapped this picture.
If you say that I resemble something between a wet dishrag and a bedraggled poodle, I won't disagree in the least. Today's race challenged me both mentally and physically in ways I've scarcely been challenged before. The mental challenge was by far the harder one. All this to say: Racing proves to me again just how running can make you stronger and wiser.
Thanks for joining me on my journey, guys.
P.S. I somehow came in under 3 hours. 2:48 to be exact. God's grace!
Saturday, August 31
7:56 AM Why does this song keep goin' through my head?
Well, the surfboard IS waxed down and I'm READY. I'm taking these books with me to the beach:
I am always in the middle of a few books at once. Usually at least one about running and one about spiritual growth. The temps for tomorrow's race will be in the mid-70s and sunny. So it should be a great weekend.
Here's a few miscellaneous things I've been thinking about:
1. The last 3 miles of a half suck.
2. Relationships can have an expiration date.
3. If you want to know more about God, open your Bible (in whatever language).
4. When you can't, God can.
5. Fireworks have nothing on the sparks of Christ's grandeur.
6. I am never content. Deep within is the God-given urge to know God better and to worship Him face to face.
7. If you take God seriously, you ought to take Satan seriously.
8. Loving actions do speak louder than words.
9. Always try to see the best in other people.
10. Age does not define me.
11. No matter what happens to me, God is always there.
12. Good art isn't confined to a gallery any more than good drama is confined to a stage.
13. Friendships are serious business.
14. "No" is a sign God has something better for me.
15. Pursuing goals and ambitions that aren't eternal is a game nobody ever wins.
16. Get comfortable with you own very special, unique looks.
17. Avoid bad advice from well-meaning people.
18. Serve God with all your heart and mind.
19. God won't make your decisions for you.
20. Thankfully, wrong choices are forgivable.
21. "Come soon, Lord Jesus."
22. Get along, except when you can't.
23. If it's mediocrity you want, it can be easily had.
24. The cross. The closer we live to it, the more truly we are alive.
25. Stay curious.
Well, bored stiff yet? Sorry, but the nice thing about a blog is you get to say whatever you want.
Y'all have a great holiday weekend, and stay awesome !
Friday, August 30
8:08 PM Are you done improving?
That's a question I ask myself every day.
Are you done getting better?
I'm still getting better aged 67. Despite various setbacks, I refuse to stop moving. I'm planning on getting much better. As a man. As a Christian. As a dad and granddad. As a teacher. As an athlete. At 67 my window is closing. But it's still open. The older I get the more I realize how much better I want to be. I have learned so much about life just in the past year. I have so many goals. I want to keep pushing to see what I can achieve. Good days, bad days, and everything in between keep me moving forward. I've got a lot of room for small growth.
We can never be done getting better.
Thank you, Lord!
4:44 PM My buddy and I got in a nice 15-mile bike today in South Hill.
Our pace was kinda slow but neither of us felt like pushing it today.
The scenery was inspiring and we both enjoyed a pleasant ride. He's off to the mountains tomorrow with his family, while I'm heading to the beach. On tap for tonight: Hosting my farm guests for dinner. Life is good.
8:24 AM The neat thing about the Virginia Beach Half is that it starts and ends on the boardwalk. Also, you get to run right through the middle of Camp Pendleton.
The problem there is that the Camp has absolutely zero shade. Thankfully, the course is flat, except for a bridge you have to run over twice.
The weather promises to be on the warm and sunny side, but with a race start of 6:30 am that shouldn't be too bad. Thankfully there are tons of water stops along the way. This will be my third VB Half. I love the course and all the free stuff afterwards. At each mile you're joined by a rock band. No shortage of bathrooms along the course either.
If you're looking for a fun end-of-the-summer run, this is the one!
7:50 AM Today I got out the old surfboard and need to scrape off the old wax before I take it to the beach.
The Virginia Beach Half Marathon is on Sunday so I thought I'd hit the waves there tomorrow before I check in at my Airbnb. Sure, the latest reports say the waves are tiny, but we surfers are the ultimate optimists -- "I just know there's a huge swell coming!"
Surf legend Phil Edwards once famously said, "The best surfer out there is the one having the most fun." I strongly agree. Like running, surfing is so much more than a sport. It's a lifestyle. Surfing depends mostly on your location. When you live on a beach in Hawai'i it's easy to surf daily. When you live 3 hours from the beach as I do now, it's something you rarely do. But hopefully this weekend I've got time for a splash and dash.
6:10 AM I dropped out of Greek after only 3 weeks. That's right. I thought to myself: What's wrong with me? I should be able to get this. It's not all that hard. I'm such a loser!
My second story: I took Greek from Moody Bible Institute by correspondence, passed it, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Here's the deal. In both cases I did my best. I gave it my all. I studied my heart out. Eventually I made it and lesson learned:
Just because it's hard doesn't give me the right to give it anything less than my best. The richness of life is found in moving out of your comfort zone. While sipping my coffee this morning, I read these words from Paul to the Colossians in The Message:
If you're in my beginning Greek class this semester and end up getting a C for the course, you can hold your head up high -- if you have done your very best and tried your very hardest. Sure, there are risks. But faith takes the risks, without knowing where it is being led. Think of it as taking a trip without Google Maps. Or as a tried and true adventure. You have to go full bore. You have to quit holding out.
Become a risk-taker for God today, my friend.
Thursday, August 29
6:10 PM There's a philosophy out there that says you need to run 26 miles in training before you run a marathon. For me, that's way too much distance. So here's what I've decided to do. I will run and cross train for the next 7 weeks but nothing as far as 26 miles. Tomorrow I plan a 10-mile bike. Then I'll swim on Monday (Labor Day). Then I'll run on Tuesday. As you can see, I like to trade off sports (cycling, swimming, running) to keep my interest up and my injuries down. I have the whole thing planned out, and this includes two more foot races before the big event in Chicago:
The Virginia Beach Half Marathon (this Sunday).
The Virginia 10-Miler (Sept. 28).
I am going to try and resist the temptation to get bent out of shape if I miss a training day or two because of soreness or illness. That's all in God's hands anyway. No sense in becoming a slave to your training. Besides, it's not about the mileage. It's about the quality of your runs. Right now I feel pretty strong. I'm also watching my diet and my attitude. To be honest, we runners can become very competitive. We need to learn to cut ourselves some slack even as we push hard to accomplish our audacious goals. The main thing is to go into Chicago as prepared as I can be (that is, as prepared as "life" will allow me to be, and you never know what the future holds). If you have healthy eating habits, then you don't need to worry too much about your weight. Just exercise consistently. My most glaring weaknesses (and I have many) are: (1) running while fatigued, and (2) running paces that are too fast. No doubt that's a recipe for disaster. You can't get there if you're beating your body into submission. Bill Rodgers, who won Boston 4 times, now runs much slower and shorter distances. He's happy just to compete for age group awards. Impatience and unrealistic expectations are the twin curses of the runner. Your running shouldn't conform to anyone's expectations but your own. I'm on a journey to a fitter and more active lifestyle. No need to push myself too hard.
For me, the half marathon is the perfect distance. Don't get me wrong. A half is never easy. But they don't leave you wiped out for the rest of the day like marathons do. As for the 10-mile distance, I really love this race too. The best thing about the Virginia 10-Miler is that it feels more like a social gathering than a race. Sure, you have the elites. But you might also see your dentist or your grocer. Both the half and the 10-miler are more about consistency than about a sprint to the finish.
As I said, I truly do love the half marathon distance. The mileage is doable yet I still feel challenged. The half is definitely my "comfort" distance!
1:02 PM Today's training for Chicago involved a 45-minute workout at the Y.
My goal for Chicago, as I think I've mentioned here before, is just finishing the course. But I have the additional goal of running the distance in a specific amount of time. That is, if it's a good day and the weather is just right. Maybe even a PR-kind of day. But you have to anticipate that things aren't necessarily going to go your way. At some point in the race my goal might change to run only the miles that are left or even run to the next mile marker. You never know what your body will do at mile 20. What started out as a goal of, say, 5:00 becomes the goal of taking a single step. In the end, this uncertainty is what makes the sport such an adventure for me. That's why I think the marathon is the perfect metaphor for life. No other distance so closely parallels the ups and downs of life. Learning to set reasonable goals is one of the most difficult things I've had to learn how to do. I'm still not very good at it. But, interestingly enough, as I think about my Chicago goals, I also find myself thinking about my life goals for today and tomorrow. That's all for the good!
When I got back to the farm I started to play catch up with all of my farm chores. Right now I'm about halfway done but I decided to come indoors to grab some grub and check emails and texts. If I get an hour or two behind on emails and texts, I'm history. Here's one of the nicest things I received all day.
Can anything be sweeter than a grandson and his pet chickens?
I love these pics. I get them on a regular basis from my kids. Grandchildren seem to bring a special joy to your every day life. They're the "dots that connect the generations," as someone once said. Boy, do I love them.
Okay, you can go back to whatever you were doing.
7:48 AM The reason I asked my NT Intro class to read my books The Jesus Paradigm for this week's class and Seven Marks of a New Testament Church for next week's class is not because I think people should agree with everything I say. I've always distrusted books that make church transformation out to be a piece of cake. As we saw in Acts yesterday, it wasn't that way for the early church and it won't be that way for us. There are no quick fixes. I hope I never convey that there are. At best, I hope the reading we do in class this semester (especially our reading from the New Testament) will serve to get the juices flowing in our congregations. The secret, I believe, is in unlocking the revolutionary potential in our membership. When people begin to use their spiritual gifts for mutual upbuilding, good things happen. With church reformation, we strive to integrate what needs integrating, no more and no less, no sooner and no later. Workable decisions, even if imperfect, are better than "perfect" solutions. People need to serve from within, not from a feeling of obligation. We simply surrender to the divine calling in our lives. And when we do, we hold nothing back. When we discover our soul's calling, we commit unambiguously to it. We live and act from the certainty that God is fully present in the ordinary details of our lives. Even when we miss the mark, we fail bravely. We learn and grow from our mistakes. Life on this planet is one of constant growth. So let's never forget: Our calling is simply to be like Jesus, mimicking the life He lived 2,000 years ago.
In my books I call this the "downward path of Jesus." As Christ-followers, it's in our DNA to complete what Jesus began. It's not about instant change. It's about unfolding more and more truth and obedience into our reality than we had before.
6:50 AM I don't get it. Why does everybody act so serious when they're studying Greek? My classroom philosophy can be summed up in one word: Fun. We'll laugh. A lot. Mostly at ourselves.
Which got me to thinking. Are there unwritten rules about the classroom? Here are a few I can think of:
1. "Don't take yourself too seriously. No one else does." This is an actual quote from one of my profs at Biola. And it's true. Lighten up, folks.
2. Don't over-study. Work on this week's assignment, not next week's. As we said in Greek 1 class on Tuesday, Greek is a marathon. There are 26 chapters in our textbook. Which means we will take one "mile" (chapter) at a time. No need to rush.
3. Don't whine. We all know that language study is grueling. We all so want it to be done. So put your head down and trudge on. We'll be right there with you.
4. Don't go it alone. You are running this race with others. It was so encouraging to see after class a group of ladies talking about studying Greek together this semester. You know what? Each of them will be the better for it. Be sure to seek help if you begin to fall behind. I can tutor you. So can my assistant. So can others.
5. Don't fib about your abilities. Some of us (like me) struggle to learn foreign languages. But it can still be done.
6. Finally, remember to tell your prof how much you like his textbook -- and him. (The word "brilliant" works well.)
I know I'm bad at languages, yet I still love them. I love them as much as I love running. Every year, more than 40,000 people come to Chicago to travel 26.2 miles through its boroughs, on foot. For none of them is running easy. It's clear to me that I'll never have a runner's body, no matter how many miles I run. So instead I'm concentrating on enjoying the journey. I'm worrying more about the product and less about the packaging. Maybe if I act like a runner I'll become one some day.
Studying Greek is a series of tiny victories and defeats. And both are only as important as you make them out to be.
Wednesday, August 28
8:04 PM We sent this off to the publisher today. Final draft. The hay is in the barn!
Oddly enough, this will be the third book I've published that has the word "linguistics" in its title. I can't thank my co-editor and each of the contributors enough. All this to say that I think the future of New Testament Greek studies is in good hands with these writers. Glory to God.
7:25 PM Hey virtual friends! You are welcome in advance for me not posting any pictures of my 3 days on campus. I was simply too caught up in the excitement of the beginning of a new semester to even think about snapping photos of my classes or the lunches I enjoyed with colleagues. I am going to go out on a limb and assume that I'm not the only one who gets super excited to be back on campus after a long hiatus. I am so overwhelmed by the potential I see everywhere I look. You know where I'm going with this. I love teaching. I especially love teaching the Bible because Scripture is the scepter by which King Jesus rules His church. Let's never forget Christ's promise that His Spirit will lead us into "all truth." Liberals insist that truth is unknowable. But the authority of Christ and the authority of Scripture are intertwined. I am so thankful for colleagues who are willing to submit to the authority of Christ, which is another way of saying they are willing to submit to the authority of Scripture. When 650 evangelicals (I was among them) gathered at TEDS in 1989 for a consultation called "Evangelical Affirmations," we affirmed: "Evangelicals hold the Bible to be God's Word and therefore completely true and trustworthy." Of course, we were referring to Scripture as correctly interpreted. Simply put, a text cannot mean what its author never intended it to mean. And that's why I revel in teaching classes in New Testament Introduction or Elementary Greek or Advanced Greek Grammar. We evangelicals are Bible people, first and foremost, now and always. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth, and we can hope through prayer and study to grow more and more in our understanding of what God's will is for the church.
I can hardly fail to be stirred by the passion for truth I sense among our student body. And to think that I get to equip them with tools that will hopefully help them interpret and apply the Bible. Why, this is just beyond my imagination! My point in this is that a new semester is a good time to give thanks. Thanks for the power of God's grace. Thanks that God is growing my soul and filling it with Himself. Thanks that I have endured pain. Thanks that I've found meaning in loss. Thanks that I have changed and grown. Thanks that I wake up every morning joyful. Thanks that I have the honor of being a classroom teacher. Thanks that Becky is in heaven because she believed in Jesus. Thanks that heaven is my true home however good life on this farm seems to be. Thanks that I am never alone but am a member of a great community of people who love Jesus. Thanks that I am the Lord's and that He is mine. Thanks for the inspiration I draw from my colleagues and friends. Thanks for the gift of brokenness, because brokenness forces me to find a source of love outside of myself. Thanks for kids and grandkids who love me.
I'm a bit tired after ministering on campus for 3 days. That's okay. Tomorrow I will have my strength back again. It will be time to get back to the gym. It will be time to get caught up on my farm chores. It will be time to welcome a family to Maple Ridge for a retreat. It will be time to gear up for Sunday's half marathon in Virginia Beach. I can't wait to see how I do. I imagine it's like taking a Greek class for the very first time: You're excited and scared at the same time. And to think: You actually pay to engage in this type of suffering.
My motto these days is "Keep It Simple Stupid." (Sorry I called you stupid.) Friend, there's no time like the present to "be all there." Rise up and do what it takes. I know I will. However, be ready for anything. Life is always full of surprises!
Monday, August 26
6:58 AM So today begins my class called (officially) Advanced Greek Grammar, which is actually a course in Greek linguistics. I know I called my 1988 book Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek, but like the rest of the book, the title is questionable. There's no way to say everything that needs to be said about linguistics in a brief book like that. Moreover, the author wasn't, isn't, and never will be a linguist in the technical sense of the term. I know this creates a lot of confusion when someone like me is invited to speak to linguistics majors (like my speech next month at Liberty U.), but let the organizers figure that one out.
The one thing I most certainly am not is a purist. The purists in the academic world would suggest I have nothing to say. To be fair, they are right, in a sense. I haven't had a single class in linguistics. Ever. The elitist view of linguistics suggests that no one should ever do anything unless they can do it at the highest level. There are elitists in every field. Some elite marathoners think that slow runners like me are ruining their sport. I would simply ask them: What about that person who needed a challenge in their life? Who, like me, never thought they could run a marathon, and then did. That makes it a victory for all of us. Incidentally, the one thing you will never hear your fellow runners say to you after a race is, "What was your time?" That doesn't matter. At all. You showed up. You tried. You gave it your all. And somehow, you finished.
Greek students, that's what I'm asking of you this semester. Remember: A twelve-minute mile is just as far as a six-minute mile. So what if your "run" isn't much faster than a walk with a good tailwind. Run your race this semester. Be the best linguist you can possibly be. God's word demands it. We all have a lot to learn from professional linguists about how language works. And maybe even from rank amateurs like me.
By the way, the sunrise this morning was out of this world.
Spontaneous worship can break out at any time, any place. Spread before us from horizon to horizon are these little reminders of God's care over His creation, including us. "If you have never heard the mountains singing, or seen the trees of the fields clapping their hands," wrote McCandlish Phillips, "do not think because of that they don't." This morning I heard the skies singing and wanted to add my own accompaniment.
Yesterday I talked about Grimm's Law. To apply it, you need to know this little chart. I'm posting it here because I couldn't find one on Google Images. The key is to go one step counter-clockwise. Try it with the verb pherō.
Sunday, August 25
10:14 PM Tonight I saw a new release called Overcomer. It's a touching film that gets to the heart of what it means to be a Christian: forgiveness. I know of no more staggering and humbling truth than that God has forgiven me of my sins through His Son. In turn, a Christian is characterized by a willingness to forgive.
The film powerfully illustrates the foolishness of saying no to our Father in heaven. We are given the choice, day by day, to trust Him, even for those things in our lives that seem so destructive. The acting in this movie is superb. And the Gospel comes through loud and clear. I encourage you all to see this poignant and powerful film.
1:58 PM Is linguistics descriptive or prescriptive? Before you say the former, it's actually both. With linguists, languages are generally approached descriptively. But the science of linguistics can also be employed prescriptively. Languages, indeed, have their own "rules." One of the most important of these is called Grimm's Law. Grimm's Law will figure very prominently in tomorrow night's Advanced Greek Grammar class when I ask my students to come up with an English cognate or derivative for every one of the Greek words found in Eph. 1:1-2.
Yes, this is actually possible! So let's not argue about whether there are "rules" in languages. Of course, attitudes toward "correctness" in language are not shaped solely by grammars. To a large degree, it is language usage that determines rightness or wrongness in language. For example, formal and ordinary language registers may lead to two different languages being formed. The colloquial form of the language is not a "corruption" of the language preferred by the elites. As you know, I grew up in a milieu of diglossia, where about half of us who lived in Hawai'i could speak both Standard English and Hawaiian Creole (Pidgin). The latter is sometimes thought to contain numerous "mistakes" or "infelicities" of English. In Pidgin, for instance, we say "shave ice" instead of "shaved ice." Actually, this is perfectly understandable as there has long been a tendency in English to drop the -ed suffix in words that belong to noun phrases. To wit:
Whip cream = whipped cream
Cream corn = Creamed corn
Roast beef = roasted beef
Wax paper = waxed paper
Skim milk = skimmed milk
Where I live in Southern Virginia, final "g-dropping" with verbs is the norm even among highly educated speakers of English.
And the list goes on and on. When it comes to the study of Koine Greek, the fact is that many of the "exceptions to the rule" have their own rules. And this is precisely where Greek phonology can help us -- hence our little exercise in the opening greeting of Ephesians. I want my students to see that linguistics is a cognitive science that provides a link between the humanities and the social sciences.
6:18 AM Today I am definitely not working out. Of course, if I had to get up hay today (which I don't), I would. Life goes on whether or not you've just run a half. But wisdom tells me I need to take a day or two off from exercise. The whole idea is about listening to your body. Besides, I've got plenty of other stuff to do. By the way, this week a couple from the seminary will be staying at the farm for a bit of R & R. Years ago Becky and I dedicated Maple Ridge as a place of prayer, rest, and restoration. The goal is for retreatants to strengthen their relationship with Jesus Christ. Plus have lots of fun butting heads with the goats.
Originally build in 1810, Maple Ridge has been completely renovated and is equipped with such modern amenities as air conditioning and a complete kitchen. We designed it to accommodate larger families on retreat or those needing temporary housing. They can stay at Maple Ridge from a few days up to 6 months, free of charge. These families are sometimes in a period of transition or adjustment. Maple Ridge is a safe shelter in which to put body and soul back together and to seek guidance from the Lord for the next step.
So glad to see Becky's vision still bearing fruit!
5:34 AM This Wednesday in our NT 2 class we'll begin our discussion of Acts and will hone in on ecclesiology. To begin with, students will read my The Jesus Paradigm as well as Seven Marks of a New Testament Church. On Wednesday, one of our topics will be the concept of "primus inter pares" -- first among equals. Here are some slides I'll be sharing with the class. They are based on Alexander Strauch's definitive work Biblical Eldership.
The overriding principle I'm trying to bring to the table is: Pastoral ministry is a "fellowship of leadership." The expression is Michael Green's. I once heard Green speak about this in chapel, and he also served as a priest in a nearby Anglican church in Raleigh. Green argues that both democracy (which leads to shared incompetence) and monarchy (which leads to suppression of initiative) is bad for a congregation. "What is needed is a leadership team accountable to God and the congregation; a team which will lead and enable each member to achieve his or her full potential and use that in God's service" (Adventure of Faith, p. 86). Some argue that this leadership team itself needs a leader. "Every healthy organization has someone at the top." I fully agree. And every local church has such a Senior Pastor (see 1 Pet. 5:4). That's why I'm suggesting we might want to try avoiding the language of "senior" or "lead" pastor and instead consider using "co-pastor" or even what Peter uses in 1 Pet. 5:1: "fellow elder." The fact is, all of us need to be serving the Lord Christ. "You need a fellowship of leadership to model that sort of thing and to help it come about" (Green again).
So do I agree with the idea of primus inter pares? Absolutely. In Christ we have a Lead Pastor but sadly our nomenclature too often masks that reality. He is, however, ready to assume that honor if we will but allow Him.
P.S. Here's an example that just came to mind. You're the senior or lead pastor of a multi-staffed church and have been invited to speak at a convention. Each of your staff pastors are considered elders (co-equal and non-hierarchical) but your church masthead cites you as the senior or lead pastor. When asked how you would like to be identified in the convention program, list yourself as co-pastor. In the first place, this is true: you are one of several pastor-elders. In the second place, you will be willingly receding into the group -- which is precisely what Peter (the most prominent of Jesus' apostles) seems to be doing in 1 Pet. 5:1 when he refers to himself as a "fellow elder."
"Co-undershepherd" would also work but that's a little wordy!
Saturday, August 24
5:28 PM Without a doubt, today's half in Ashland was one of the best races I've ever participated it.
The weather was overcast and cool -- perfect for a 13.1 mile run. Packet pickup this morning was a breeze. There were only about 1,000 runners so there were no corrals to line up in. I placed myself about 2/3rds of the way back and was able to start my run at just the right pace without being pushed forward by the crowd. I loved the course, especially when an Amtrak went by!
At almost every turn there were spectators, and they were loud and tons of fun. Once we got out into the country, there were a few rolling hills, but nothing stood out as being exceptionally challenging. I ran the entire race except for the aid stations, which were placed every 2-3 miles. They were well stocked with water and Gatorade. A slight downhill made for a strong push at the end. All the people cheering for you made the last 1/3 mile fly by. The medal was pretty nice.
You also got the standard race shirt. I spent the next half hour basking in the glory of my finish time.
This is about 11 minutes slower than my PR, but I didn't want to push myself too hard. It's not easy for me to describe how I felt during the race, but perhaps the best word is joy. Joy in the Lord. Joy in the health He's so undeservedly given me. Joy in feeling the wind and seeing the corn and bean fields. Joy in knowing that my body could still do this. Here are a few more pictures. I realize I have a billion more I could show you, but these are enough to bore you to tears.
1) Airbnb is so great. I got this room (with a private bath and balcony) for only $59.00. The house reminded me so much of Maple Ridge here on the farm.
2) I snapped this pic at around mile 9.
At this point in the race, nobody is passing anybody else and nobody is being passed. Everybody has settled into a rhythm. Everyone is relaxed. We were all running a 12-minute pace. This happens in just about every race you run. You see the same people for the last half of the race. I'd love to have been able to talk with them, but at this stage of the game you're too focused on finishing to converse.
3) This was an amazing race for me. I felt incredible cardio-wise and had absolutely no pain anywhere afterwards.
I think I got some confidence back after the health issues I faced between May and July. One of the hardest things to do after you're injured is to get your mojo back. Nothing is more rewarding than to be able to trust your body again. Sure, there were a couple of times when I was tempted to go faster than I should have in order to try and break my old half marathon PR. But I realized that if I did that I couldn't face myself in the mirror after the race. How encouraging it is to know that you can run "within yourself" and not have any regrets when the race is over. After the race I had that utterly fabulous feeling (endomorphs?) when you think you can go on forever!
Well, another race in the books. Half #19. If you're looking for a fast race with lots of scenery, this one's for you. I met my goal of finishing and having fun. Mile after mile I fell in step with some awesome people of all ages, shapes, and levels of ability. Running gives me community and a way to improve my health. Running a half marathon is a crash course in gratitude, perseverance, patience, and the rewarding feeling of knowing you've pushed through but not to the point where you've injured your body. I'm not a gifted athlete (the understatement of the year), but I am dogged. And in a long distance race, you can take that quality a very long way. I actually yearn for those moments in life when my mettle is tested or when I am asked to persevere despite overwhelming challenges. These are the times when I can feel Him beside me, and heaven comes down and touches earth.
Thanks so much to the race organizers for putting on a first-class event. And thank You, Jesus, for running every step of the way with me today.
Friday, August 23
12:48 PM Here's a recap of today's visit with the neurologist at Duke. The good news is that my motor functions and nervous system seem to be working just fine. He thinks there might be some minor nerve damage in my feet. Not sure. Story of my life. So he's ordered an MRI of the lumbar spine as well as a Nerve Conduction Test. I'm not sure either test will do any good but the more information you have the better you can deal with the issue, right? Now I just have to wait for the insurance company to approve these procedures. Keeping fingers and (partially numb) feet crossed. Hoping it's nothing too serious. A least the doc said I can continue running and being active.
How's that for an update?
The only other news around here is that my old GE refrigerator is on its way to the landfill or the metal resellers or wherever. It served me well for going on 15 years.
Tomorrow is the half in Ashland. No sense in freaking out now. You just have to trust your training to get you through. My primary race goal is to smile and have fun. I realize that at some points during the race that will be well nigh impossible. That's okay. Finishing is winning.
7:22 AM There's a touch of fall in the air this morning.
A pleasant day indeed to read Ephesians in The Message.
I like how Peterson renders 4:11-12: "He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christians in skilled servant work." Nicely done. I might have translated the purpose clause as "to prepare God's people for works of service." I'd love to camp out on this for a while but I've got to get to my neurology appointment in Durham. More later.
6:20 AM Can anything top reading A. T. Robertson's Big Grammar at 6:00 am?
I remember reading this book for the first time in seminary. Today, I'm intrigued that it's still in print. The modern revolution in Greek linguistics has not come about because we have all kinds of novel ideas but because we are building on a foundation laid in the past. There is real value in reading an old book like this one. At least, there would be if teachers required it. Robertson's greatest strength, of course, is also his greatest weakness. Linguistics is much more than historical-comparative philology. But he was a man of his time, and by all measures his book represented a real breakthrough. That he does not do this in simple, nontechnical language may be a stumbling block to some. Actually, I find Robertson eminently readable. I love his heavy, Teutonic prose. I love his Latin and German and French quotes. There is no sniff of stifling fundamentalism among his chapters. In so many ways, Robertson embodies what a good philologist should be but frequently is not.
You can see that I'm taking thorough notes (in green) of chapters 1-2. These notes will form the basis for a quiz over this material in my Advanced Greek Grammar class. A "fun" quiz, mind you -- meaning one that doesn't count for a grade, though the student with the highest quiz score will receive one of my books for free. Here's one of the questions:
How would you answer that?
I've written a number of books on Greek, but I am a grammarian by mistake. It was by reading Robertson and Moulton and Zerwick and others that I felt led to enter the fray. I discovered that books like Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek evoked an enormous response. I had not yet cottoned on to the fact that linguistics was then sweeping all over the scholarly guild. Once I realized that, I found myself writing more and more about discourse analysis, morphology, semantics, etc. That said, I'm not a huge fan of my book on linguistics. It really wasn't all that good, but surprisingly it's stayed in print for over 30 years. I think the time has come for a replacement, don't you? Maybe you will be the one to write it.
5:56 AM "... whether I spend my days in India or America, I desire to spend them in the service of God, and be prepared to spend an eternity in his presence." A. J.
5:45 AM "I am a creature of God, and he has an undoubted right to do with me, as seemeth good in his sight.... He has my heart in his hands, and when I am called to face danger, to pass through scenes of terror and distress, he can inspire with me with fortitude, and enable me to trust in him." A. J.
5:20 AM "O how different were my views of myself and my God, from what they were, when I first began to inquire what I should do to be saved. I felt myself to be a poor lost sinner.... This view of myself humbled me in the dust, melted me into sorrow and contrition for my sins, induced me to lay my soul at the feet of Christ, and plead his merits alone, as the ground of my acceptance." Ann Judson.
Thursday, August 22
5:35 PM Seminary and college convocation was today. I belong to a community that seeks to inspire men and women to live and learn the example of Christ. Sometimes that example is best seen in the lives of real-life human beings like Ann Hasseltine Judson, the wife of Adoniram Judson. Danny Akin's message on this subject was, in short, powerfully humbling and convicting. Had there been an altar call after the message, I'm sure people would have flooded to the front. I know I would have. I still can't believe that for years I had missed something so central. It was Jesus' un-normal ideas that made Him so unique. Follow me? Be prepared to give up everything. If you're Ann Judson, be prepared to die at the age of 37 in Burma. Carrying out the ministry of Christ in this earth is somehow always mingled with the concept of death. Death to self, at the very least. Broken so you can feed someone else. Not what I envisioned when I became a Christian in 1960. But that is what Jesus is teaching me through His cherished servants like Ann and Adoniram Judson.
I assure you, if you listen to today's chapel message, you will be deeply touched. Our holy Savior said it well: "What you have is not yours. So give it up, give it all up. Because once you come to the end of yourself, once you hit bottom, it is surprisingly peaceful down here."
Jesus is our only hope and inheritance. His followers glory and boast in Him despite crushing instability and hardship. Ann Judson lived on the margins and paid for it. But by becoming broken and poured out for others, she redefined for the church the nature of greatness. Our only hope, people, is to follow the example of Jesus and get back out into the world from which He rescued us, winning people over with our scandalous love and a lifestyle that makes them sit up and listen.
Here's the link to today's message. Danny's text was Psalm 142:1-7. I jotted down the following outline:
1) God hears the cries of your heart.
2) God knows what you are going through.
3) God will deliver you as your Refuge.
Below: Welcoming our new students to the seminary and college. Looking forward to getting to know all of you!
Wednesday, August 21
7:08 PM Only 7 weeks to go before I run in the world famous Chicago Marathon. It's hard for me to even describe what it's like to finish a marathon. You're exhausted but you love it. I have such a supportive family and I don't take that for granted. The Chicago Marathon is a world class event. The course is said to be fast, well attended by spectators, and fun. I go into this marathon knowing that it will be a while before I run another one. I'm down to one marathon a year, remember? I'm already nervous. Marathons are the hardest things I've ever done. But that's kind of the point, right? I'm not doing Chicago because it's easy. I know the miles will hurt. I know I'll have to push myself to finish. I know I'll have to be mentally tough. Most of all, the marathon will teach me humility. Everybody faces obstacles in life. When we're faced with seemingly insurmountable odds, we must quit listening to the mockers and naysayers and shout, "With God's strength, I can!" His help is always but a prayer away. If you're after mediocrity in life, it can be easily had. But if you're going after excellence, no matter what the field, you have to work at it with all your might. Nothing is too difficult for God. The very problems we fret most about are the very things we need to trust God with. If you think you've got it tough, read 2 Cor. 11:24-33. Paul endured beatings, shipwrecks, imprisonments, beatings, and threats in his own race of life. Yet he endured and persevered through every bout of despair. Like marriage, our relationship with God will be marked by hardships and heartaches. And yet the rewards of faithful love are worth the perseverance it requires to develop them.
I learn from every marathon I run. The marathon tests my character each and every time. But if I do my best, I'll mature not only as a runner but as a human being and follower of Jesus.
The marathon -- what an inspiration!
4:42 PM What a funny day it's been today. Not as in "funny ha ha" but as in funny weird.
1) Yesterday my refrigerator went out on me just like that. But "coincidentally," Lowe's was running a sale on new refrigerators. They were marking off 30 percent until 9:00 pm tonight. It will be delivered Friday. How kind of you, Lord!
2) My favorite slippers broke this morning. I mean, I had those things for maybe 25 years. I caught one of them on a floor board in the house today and, again, just like that, they were history. Sob. The good news is that I found a new pair at Wal-Mart that fit me perfectly. Snazzy, huh!
3) Yesterday I ordered a book on Amazon Prime and it came today. It usually takes two days for Amazon Prime to deliver. Wow. That's crazy!
4) Finally, I went to bush hog the pastures today and the donks just wouldn't leave me alone. Weird! Maybe they think this machine has carrots or something. I had to shoo them away like they were flies. Poor babies.
So you see, it's been a really weird day. Almost as weird as Hawai'i having Interstate Highways!
5:58 AM Next month I'm giving two rather major talks, one at Liberty University and one at Clearview Church. Like you, I've got pet peeves about public speaking. For my whole Christian life I've listened to sermons and lectures. All too often the speakers were "pumping sunshine" (as we used to say in California). We the People are obviously not stupid. We can tell if you know your subject. We can see whether or not you're really passionate about what you're saying or just reading a lecture someone else wrote for you. When I was at Biola, my CE prof once told me, "Dave, there are no boring teachers. If they're boring, they're not teachers." If you're familiar with TED Talks, then you're probably familiar with their Ten Commandments:
Thou Shalt Not Simply Trot Out thy Usual Shtick.
Thou Shalt Dream a Great Dream, or Show Forth a Wondrous New Thing, Or Share Something Thou Hast Never Shared Before.
Thou Shalt Reveal thy Curiosity and Thy Passion.
Thou Shalt Tell a Story.
Thou Shalt Freely Comment on the Utterances of Other Speakers for the Sake of Blessed Connection and Exquisite Controversy.
Thou Shalt Not Flaunt thine Ego.
Be Thou Vulnerable. Speak of thy Failure as well as thy Success.
Thou Shalt Not Sell from the Stage: Neither thy Company, thy Goods, thy Writings, nor thy Desperate need for Funding; Lest Thou be Cast Aside into Outer Darkness.
Thou Shalt Remember all the while: Laughter is Good.
Thou Shalt Not Read thy Speech.
Thou Shalt Not Steal the Time of Them that Follow Thee.
The ninth one (in red) may well be the most important. I'm about 100 percent positive that public speakers would make a 100 percent greater impact on their audiences if they simply got rid of their notes. Pay attention to the people you're trying to reach. Look them in the eye. "Read" their reactions. And do it authentically. You say, "How is that done?" Watch a TED Talk and you'll see how. They are the most popular lectures on the web. They've been called "spectacles for smart people." Their motto is "Ideas worth spreading."
Which means, when a TED-talker is done speaking, you have a strong urge to share what you just heard with others. Speakers are genuinely "speaking" -- not lecturing or scolding or shouting. Their content is great. And the information is not coming from the canteen of Saturday night but from a reservoir of knowledge and expertise.
TED Talks take the audience on a journey. I've enjoyed a good many excursions myself -- which is why I'm pretty much a hopeless TED Head.
5:20 AM Sitting here wide awake since 4:00 am, there's too much in my heart to keep it there. So I turn to my blog, as I always do, to let it overflow even though it's just cobwebs and echoes. Since Becky's death I've had to make an investment in a "new self" as it were. I've had to struggle with such questions as, "Why am I here?" "What parts of me died with Becky and what parts didn't?" "What's the meaning of my new-found bachelorhood?" Thankfully, in the midst of all these questions (and many more like them) there has also been an amazing level of consistency -- my work, my family, my farm, my writing and publishing. But at times it felt like I was only going through the motions. I needed to find new passages to a new self. I needed new dreams.
Life offers us many new and rich and varied opportunities if we will only look for them. Since that fateful day in November 2013, I've fought a battle against sameness. I needed to find new ways to make a difference in people's lives. I guess that's one reason I've enjoyed running so much. Or why I like going to the gym. My days are full of firsts again. It's like learning how to surf all over again, or learning Greek all over again, or riding horses all over again. I've also had more time for intimacy with the Lord, exploring new ideas with my publishers, and trying out new foods. I can speak from personal experience when I say that growing older doesn't mean you have to slow down and stagnate. Even a 67-year old widower can sprout new foliage and choose a new direction. In a sense, in moving forward I've turned to the past -- witness my trips to Hawaii since Becky died. Waking up morning after morning at Kailua Beach to squint at the endless horizon and the sun rising over the Mokulua Islands works wonders with a sagging spirit. Sitting for hours on a surfboard has given me time to decode the mindboggling changes I've experienced in my life.
So as I'm aging, I'm also trying to outwit it. I'm writing a new map of my life, eager to travel the new passages the Lord has designed for me in His sovereignty and love, recognizing that each new change is a passport to renewal. For far too many men, their whole identity is tied up with the status they've achieved so far. That's not what I want. As far as I'm concerned, 67 is the new 47. I'm not ready to accept "old age." Where's the adventure in that? No, I've got too much tread left in this old carcass of mine to coast through my 60s. 60s did you say? In my mind's eye I'm still that 19-year old who left Hawaii for Biola or that 26-year old who married a gorgeous lady from Texas or that 31-year old who received his doctorate in Europe. The 20-somethings who leave me in the dust during my races ain't got nothin' on me. I've got more wisdom and I'm probably tons happier too. I can still manage to pump blood and oxygen around my circulatory system with the best of them. Sure, I've got my inner battles (as do you), but today I'm more comfortable with uncertainty and I feel far more diversified on the outside and far more unified on the inside.
The only thing I'm having difficulty understanding is why people like you would even be faintly interested in anything I write here on this blog. Maybe it's curiosity. Maybe you want to know what a major life-passage looks like. If so, that's normal and necessary. Glad I can be of service! But listen, folks, there are no rules for aging today. The answer to the manhood puzzle must come from within. If there is a key to successfully negotiating the aging process, it's to be geared toward goals that are larger than yourself. Go where your spirit (and the Spirit) leads you. Stand apart from the crowd. Like William Wallace, be willing to risk your life for what you believe in. At the same time, discover your nurturing side. You can't help everybody but you can help someone.
To speak of aging as being "over the hill" is as absurd as it is destructive. God has a purpose for our lives regardless of our age. The greatest joy in life comes from seeking His will and then obeying it to the very best of our God-given ability. "I find my zenith doth depend upon a most auspicious star," spoke Prospero in Shakespeare's The Tempest, "whose influence if I now court not, but omit, my fortunes will ever after droop." Friend, there is still time to redirect your life toward that Star, the Lord Jesus Christ. Health never lasts. But influence can outlast our mortality.
Tuesday, August 20
5:14 PM It happened to me again today. I had a bad run. I felt out of it. I felt lazy. I felt heavy. Am I overtraining? Sleep deprived? Just plain lazy? I can't seem to pinpoint any cause. I wanted to go 10 miles but ended up cutting my run short and finished only 7. I knew I just had to keep moving and I would finish. This little doe agreed.
I finished the miles, but it was painfully slow. I'm happy that this happened during training and not during a race. When I got back home I decided to do some yard work to get my mind off of my run. The trees needed trimming, the water troughs needing cleaning out, the weeds needed some Round Up, etc. It was just what the doctor ordered. Worked like a charm. I feel great again, and the house and yard look pretty good as well.
Thankfully, one bad run doesn't define you. And thank God for all the clichés we runners are fond of, like "You don't have to run, Dave, you get to run!" There are people who'd give everything they have to be able to run or even walk. Suck it up, Dave. Be thankful for what you do have. Embrace the hard. Remember that tomorrow will be better. And if you need a little encouragement, read the Word. Like this snippet from 3 John.
John uses "love" language 3 times in the letter's opening verses to describe his friend Gaius. Three times!
... to Gaius my beloved
... whom I love
Love is one of those words that's difficult to define. I saw a cartoon the other day of a guy chomping on a piece of fried chicken and a gal eating a vegan meal. The caption over both was, "I love animals." You can say you love your spouse and love going to basketball games. But what is love? It's not just a mark of a Christian but the mark. It's sort of like God's DNA in our lives. The elder John was eager to tell Gaius how loved he was. Have you told God you love Him today? He wants to know. But remember: a child's loving actions speak louder than words.
Tomorrow I plan to cycle 10 miles while I'm having the oil changed in my van. Cycling perfectly complements running. It offers a non-impact activity that works opposing muscle groups. It also trains your cardiovascular system without adding more stress to your body. I like to cross train, but when I do I miss running. But it's the very fact that I'm not running that allows my body to rest. I also try to work in swimming.
What do you do for exercise?
Do you cross train?
Ever have a bad day? What do you do to relieve your stress?
7:45 AM In less than a week our Advanced Greek Grammar class will begin. We'll meet on Monday nights from 6:30-9:20. We'll be studying the little book of 3 John as well as going through a goodly number of advanced grammars. The first night of class should be interesting. What do I have planned? Plenty of sight reading. Oral recitation. English to Greek composition. Discussion of Robertson and Runge and a host of other authors. Two students will give presentations. Of course, we'll read through 3 John in one sitting. And students will begin to think about their paper topic. That topic has to be based on 3 John, which, as you know, talks a lot about Christian eldership/leadership. Historically, the church has oscillated between two extremes when it comes to leadership. These two extremes have been called clericalism and anti-clericalism. If you hold to clericalism, you tend to see pastors as monopolizing leadership and ministry. If you hold to anti-clericalism, you tend to see clergy as redundant. 3 John has a lot to say about local church leadership. In fact, if I could, I would require my students to read Alexander Strauch's magnificent book Biblical Eldership, if for no other reason than it avoids both extreme positions. We have to try and maintain a balance between every member ministry (think of Paul's body analogy) and Christ's delegation of leadership to qualified under-shepherds.
As I begin my 43rd year of teaching, I've asked myself, "What can I say about 21st century leadership that needs to be said?" The godly leader in 3 John, Gaius, is said to walk in the truth, love the brothers and sisters, and entertain strangers. On the other hand, a leader named Diotrephes is portrayed as loving himself more than others and refusing to welcome the traveling evangelists. In other words, doctrinal heresy does not seem to be in view. Rather, personal ambition had caused the problem. Students in our class can pick from any number of topics for their paper based on 3 John, but I sincerely hope one of them will do a detailed word study of the verb philoprōteuō, which is used in verse 9. For one thing, there's the question about the best way to translate this word. The versions differ somewhat:
NIV: "who loves to be first"
NLT: "who loves to be the leader"
ESV: "who likes to put himself first"
CSB: "who loves to have first place"
GNT: "who likes to be their leader"
ISV: "who loves to be in charge"
HWP: "like be da boss"
SCH2000: "der Erste sein möchte"
HOF: "die führende Rolle spielen möchte"
RVR1960: "tener el primer lugar"
SG21: "être le premier"
NTLH: "que deseja ser o líder"
VULGATE: "qui amat primatum gerere"
The difference between "liking to be leader" and "loves to be in charge" is considerable. The context seems to indicate that Diotrephes is singled out by name because he had not only sought to undermine the apostle John's person and position but had also wanted to have the preeminence. He apparently did not share Paul's desire that in all things Christ should have the supremacy (Col. 1:18). His refusal to welcome and assist the traveling evangelists had simply unmasked a deeper problem, that of self-love.
Many lessons can be drawn here. Perhaps one of them is this: I am convinced that leaders need a safe place where they can share their struggles with people who can guide them ever deeper into the Father's love. This doesn't mean that pastors must bring their faults and temptations before the congregation at every turn. It means, rather, that ministers (meaning all of us) are called to minister with their whole being, including their broken selves. The pedestals that we have erected in our churches have become nightmares. What if we freed ourselves and our church leaders to be ordinary men and women? Spiritual pride thrives where pastors are deemed untouchable. This might all sound very unrealistic, but all of us, Christian leaders included, are called to live in the body, not only our own physical bodies but also in the corporate community. The leadership that Jesus speaks of is radically different from the leadership practiced in the world. It is, as Alexander Strauch says, a servant leadership in which leaders are vulnerable servants who need the people as much as they need each other.
What ever happened to Diotrephes? We don't know. But his spirit lives on. It lives on in my heart. It dawns on me as I begin another year of teaching that much of what I say in class will likely not be remembered. It's my example (or failure to set a good example) that will be remembered. I hope that Jesus will become real and present in my classes this semester. I'm a slow learner. Old patterns and habits are not easy to give up. I pray that what we learn in our Advanced Greek class will not only be good grammar and syntax but also something that helps all of us catch a glimpse of what a truly godly leader looks like.
P.S. A pastor friend of mine told me about this book yesterday. I just ordered it.
I think the table of contents is revealing:
Section One: Brokenness
Section Two: Uncommon Communion
Section Three: Servanthood as an Identity
Section Four: Radical Immediate Obedience
Under leaders like this, I believe the church can be the safe family that God intended for it to be. It really can.
P.P.S. As I sit here writing this post I am doing what all runners do, obsessing about the weather for Saturday's half marathon. Here's the latest forecast for Richmond and its environs.
Wow. Rainy and hot -- until Saturday, when things dry off and cool down considerably. I know things can change between now and then, but for now I'm excited and grateful. I just think running is that much harder when you're fighting not only your own body but also the elements, such as heat and humidity. I run all year round. This isn't a bragamony, just a fact. But I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that it takes tons of mental fortitude to run when the weather is less than optimum. So for now, things are looking good for Saturday, as in real good. Praise the Lord.
Monday, August 19
5:36 PM Top 10 signs you were born and raised in Hawai'i:
1) You can correctly pronounce words like papahānaumokuākea.
2) You say "slippahs," not flip flops.
3) You call it shave ice and not shaved ice.
4) The very mention of "Li Hing Mui" makes your mouth water.
5) You love lau laus and lomi lomi salmon.
6) You can play the ukulele.
7) Your favorite suit is your swim suit.
8) You love cultural diversity.
9) Your blog is full of sunrise photos.
10) You say "shoyu," not soy sauce.
There are tons more examples I could give but I think you get the idea. Yesterday I began reading a book that had been sitting on my shelf for a very long time.
Maybe my renewed interest in all things Hawaiian emerges from the sense of raw and joyful hospitality I received from friends and even from strangers during my recent visit to the Islands. It was there, in my mid-teens, that I became vaguely aware that God had a plan for my life. It was there that I began to grasp the truth that sin equals self. It was on O'ahu that I began to lead people to Christ and to experiment with the talents and gifts God had given me for the upbuilding of His church. It was at First Baptist Church Windward that I began to realize just how wonderful God's family is and that it is the complex pattern of relationships between brothers and sisters in Christ that often governs our development into mature Christians. It's no exaggeration to say that it was in Kailua that I began to understand what God meant when He asserted that it was not good for man to be alone -- a reference that Calvin understood as having a much wider reference than to marriage. I saw that the Greek word koinonia bore witness both to what we share in as Christians (our common inheritance in Christ) and to what share with each other (our mutual responsibility to care for and nurture each other). It is our koinonia in God that unites us and it is our koinonia with one another that causes us to love one another, not bite and devour one another, but rather encourage and build each other up. As Jesus said:
It was in Hawai'i that I first saw that true Christian koinonia involves the rich and all-encompassing sharing that I have tried to practice in my life and ministry. I keep asking myself, "Am I serving the Lord, the church, the world? Am I growing in love and care for others?" I was only 8 when I was baptized at Kailua Beach Park. Little did I imagine that 59 years later I would still have the privilege of leading students into the Scriptures and encouraging them to browse there for themselves. For when they read the word of God, they will discover in no uncertain terms that God calls all of us to ministry and on no account are we to allow professionals to do all the work of the church. They will also see that we come to Christ in worship and go for Christ in mission, that the gathering exists for the going, that a living church is a learning church, and that fidelity to the teaching of the apostles is the first mark of an authentic body of believers but not the only one. The church is God's new society, and we cannot proclaim the Gospel of God's love if we do not exhibit it in our love for others. Authentic mission is always incarnational mission. It must express itself in a way that is both faithful to Scripture and relevant to the contemporary world.
In Hawai'i, people have time for each other. "Island time" is real. Everyone seems to know everyone. You greet everyone with a hug and a kiss. You can't tell who are your real aunties and uncles because everyone is "Aunty" and "Uncle." Hawai'i is truly a melting pot. Diversity means we love and respect one another. You feel like one big family (ohana). You respect your elders (kapuna) and enjoy watching all the kids (keiki) you see. Everyone treats you with aloha, whether it's your restaurant server or the TSA personnel at the airport. People seem less grouchy and are willing to start a conversation with you in a heartbeat. Even guys wear flowers in their ears on May Day ("Lei Day").
All I can say is that the pre-history of growing up in Hawai'i has formed my current thinking about the church in ways that I'm probably not even aware of. I ask myself, "You think the church could ever be this way too?" I have a dream of a caring church, marked by genuine love and aloha, whose congregation is drawn from many races, nationalities, and social backgrounds and exhibits the unity and diversity of the family of God. A church where we feel like one big ohana, where we love and respect our kapuna, where the keiki are not marginalized but included, where the nāwaliwali are supported and the mehameha are befriended and the members bear each other's burdens and obey Christ's command to turn from self and give their lives tirelessly in the service of